Care within 24 hours of first signs is critical

Pain in the lower right quadrant of a person’s abdomen is the classic sign for appendicitis, but one local surgeon said individuals need to be careful not to bank their understanding of the disease on that one symptom.

“Appendicitis has been given the name ‘The Great Imitator’ among those of us in medicine for a good reason,” said L. Stewart Lowry, MD, a surgeon with Miami County Surgeons. “It’s a disease that can look and feel like many other things. You can have pain in the low midline instead of the right lower quadrant or you could just have pain in your back. Some people think they’re having a GI virus because of nausea and vomiting and find out later on that it is appendicitis.”

Appendicitis is a common illness that affects people of all ages although it is most commonly found in younger adults. Symptoms of the illness include right lower quadrant pain, fever, chills, and usually an elevated white blood cell count.

“Appendicitis is an acute illness that affects a person once, but if not promptly and properly treated can progress to extreme illness and to a point where the appendix perforates,” said Dr. Lowry, who practices with Premier Physician Network.

Appendicitis is most commonly treated by surgically removing the organ since the body can function without it. The appendix is thought to have an immunologic function in the body since it has lymph nodes and is covered with lymphatic tissue. It also is thought to play a part in processing the food a person eats. Over time the appendix and its shape morphs from a conical organ at birth, to a long thin sac once a person hits adulthood.

It’s this shape that is thought to contribute to the occurrence of appendicitis. The adult’s thin, sac-like organ contains cells that secrete mucus that drains into the large intestines. The appendix becomes sick when something blocks its ability to drain into the large intestines. The obstruction begins a cycle where the organ swells and that…

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