Appendicitis is a painful inflammation of the appendix, a small tube of tissue attached to the colon. Left untreated, an inflamed appendix will eventually burst, or perforate, spilling infectious materials into the abdominal cavity.

It starts with an intermittent pain in the middle of the stomach that develops quickly and travels to the lower right-hand side, where the appendix lies, becoming constant and severe.

It is a common condition accounting for around 40,000 hospital admissions a year and, although it can develop at any age, it is more common in people ages ten to 20-years-old.

What causes appendicitis?

Most cases of appendicitis are thought to be caused when something blocks the entrance of the appendix, a small, thin pouch measuring 5 to 10 cm.

It is usually the result of infection, possibly of the stomach, or an obstruction, usually a hard piece of stool (faeces) that gets trapped in your appendix, and the bacteria in the stool then infects the appendix. Once bacteria enter your appendix, they rapidly multiply, causing the appendix to swell and become filled with pus.

The causes are not fully understood so there is no guaranteed way of preventing appendicitis.

Symptoms of appendicitis

Patients can experience nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, cramp like pain, constipation, high temperature and diarrhea. The pain can worsen by coughing, sneezing or even walking.

The pain can be severe enough to wake someone who is sleeping. It can start with similar mild nausea symptoms of a stomach bug but if it continues to get worse and the pain develops in the lower right abdominal area then you should seek medical attention.

Diagnosis of appendicitis

Only 50% of appendicitis conforms to typical symptoms so it can be a difficult condition to diagnose. Sometimes the pain is gastroenteritis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation or a bladder infection. Some people’s appendixes are sited in slightly different positions. But GPs can usually diagnose by examining the abdomen and applying pressure to the site of the appendix.

In more complex cases, a blood or urine test can check for infection and an ultrasound or CT scan will determine if they appendix is swollen.

Treatment of appendicitis

Mild cases can be treated with antibiotics but in the majority of cases the appendix will have to be surgically removed in a procedure known as an appendectomy, performed through open surgery or keyhole surgery. A prompt operation can result in most patients being allowed home within 24 hours with pain and bruising lasting just a few days and comfortably managed with painkillers. The appendix doesn’t perform any important functions so having it removed does not lead to any long-term problems.

Contact us

To ask a question about appendicitis or to book an appointment, contact our specialist team available Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm and on Saturday from 9am – 1pm.

Our gastrointestinal specialists team have a dedicated and caring approach and will seek to find you the earliest appointment possible with the correct specialist for your needs. If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP. You can simply refer yourself and book an appointment. If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer for authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP. If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use.Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.

Call us on 020 7078 3802 or email us at gi.unit@hje.org.uk

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GI Clinic

The GI Unit is supported by a multidisciplinary team of medical and surgical consultants. Our expert team treats and supports patients with any gastrointestinal conditions.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 7078 3802.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

    Make an enquiry

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