How Do Doctors Diagnose Appendicitis?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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Appendicitis is one of the medical emergencies that requires prompt treatment. Doctors usually diagnose appendicitis after performing a thorough physical examination, along with laboratory and imaging tests. After the doctors are relatively sure that a patient is suffering from appendicitis, he is often rushed into surgery to remove the infected area.

After a patient begins to experience the signs of appendicitis, doctors recommend that he seek medical attention as soon as possible. Pain is often one of the most common signs of appendicitis. This pain is usually quite severe and starts around the middle of the abdomen, before progressing to the lower right side. Nausea, vomiting, constipation, and fever are other common symptoms of appendicitis.

The first step when doctors are trying to diagnose appendicitis is usually a physical examination. During this exam, a physician will often feel for tender or swollen areas of the abdomen. Along with pressing on the right side, applying pressure to the left side of the abdomen may also cause pain on the right side in patients with an appendicitis.

When trying to diagnose appendicitis, doctors will also look for something called an obturator sign. Pain on the right side of the abdomen can often be felt when an individual lies down, bends his right knee, and moves it from side to side. This pain occurs because the right obturator muscle runs up into a person's abdomen, and it is in close proximity to the appendix.


Blood and urine samples may also be taken when doctors are trying to diagnose appendicitis. Blood samples may show certain signs of infection, like an elevated level of white blood cells. Urine samples are sometimes used to ensure that the symptoms are not because of another medical condition.

Imaging tests are also commonly used when trying to diagnose appendicitis. Computed tomography (CT) scans are the most common scans used when diagnosing appendicitis. If a woman is pregnant, however, doctors will usually use an ultrasound to produce internal images, since CT scans use radiation that could harm the fetus.

Since an inflamed appendix can burst within days after the first symptoms appear, treatment is typically necessary as soon as possible to avoid a possibly fatal infection known as peritonitis. An appendectomy, or surgical removal of the infected appendicitis, is usually the recommended treatment for appendicitis. In the event that an individual is not able to undergo surgery, antibiotics may clear up the infection.


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Post 1

Some people may not know a person can have appendix trouble for several days or even weeks before the pain gets really bad. A person can have mild nausea and pain, which he or she may attribute to a stomach bug. It may be several days before the symptoms become severe.

However, once the pain starts getting bad, go ahead and go to the ER. A ruptured appendix is the last thing anyone wants.

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