The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch of tissue located at the lower right side of the abdomen. Although it branches off from the first section of the large intestine, the appendix plays no vital role in the elimination of digestive wastes.
The appendix can become diseased from bacteria that are present in the intestinal tract. When infected, the appendix becomes swollen and inflamed, causing the extreme pain of appendicitis. Symptoms can include pain and tenderness near the navel area that moves toward the right lower abdomen. Nausea and vomiting, low-grade fever, and constipation or diarrhea often accompany the pain.
Appendicitis is one of the most common causes of emergency abdominal surgery in children. It is more common in males than in females, and the incidence of this condition peaks in the late teens and early twenties.
An inflamed appendix is usually surgically removed during an emergency procedure called an appendectomy. Delay in treatment could cause the appendix to rupture, resulting in a serious infection.