Appendicitis is an acute inflammation of the appendix, a thin, tube-shaped structure that protrudes from the first section of the large intestine. The appendix can become inflamed due either to an anatomical obstruction or a blockage of hardened feces. This inflammation can rapidly develop into an infection.
Symptoms of appendicitis usually begin with pain around the umbilicus that intensifies over several hours and moves to the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. This area will be very tender to even light pressure, and you may notice your child holding or protecting it. A decreased appetite, vomiting, and fever are frequently present. Diarrhea may be present as well, and extending the right leg may make the pain worse.
An inflamed appendix can burst, causing a life-threatening infection of the abdominal wall. If this happens, your child will rapidly become very ill, with a fever, pale color, and
severe abdominal pain. Although a complaint of continuous abdominal pain is a key indicator of appendicitis, some children experience a milder onset of pain that comes and goes over
several days before settling in as constant and severe. If you suspect appendicitis, seek immediate medical care.
In order to diagnose appendicitis, a doctor will want to know details of when the pain began and the location and quality of the pain. Your doctor will do an abdominal and rectal exam,
take a sample of blood to look for signs of an infection, and might order an x-ray or ultra-
sound scan to look for signs of blockage or inflammation.
If a diagnosis of appendicitis is confirmed, surgery to remove the inflamed appendix is the recommended course of treatment. Because of the danger that the appendix may rupture, surgery is usually done soon after the diagnosis is made.
To lower the risk of infection, your child may be given antibiotics before and immediately after surgery. If his appendix has ruptured, your child will definitely need intravenous antibiotics, and may need to be hospitalized for one to two weeks.
Because of the surgery and the manipulation of your child's digestive tract, the intestines will slow down, and may even stop moving for a day or two. Your child may have a nasogastric tube, a tube placed in the nose and down into the stomach, that uses suction to pull the contents of the stomach out of the body. This prevents nausea and vomiting. Except for an occasional ice chip, your child will not be able to eat or drink anything until his
intestines begin working again. He will receive intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and pain medication to help relieve discomfort.
Your child will have to get up out of bed and walk the day after surgery. Even though this
may seem like a daunting task, the importance of movement cannot be overemphasized. Among other things, walking helps the intestines to begin working again, and helps to prevent pneumonia from developing.
Even after your doctor gives full permission for him to eat, your child may have little or
no appetite. Begin slowly by offering clear liquids, such as broth, juices, and herbal teas.