The appendix also called the ileocecal appendix or the vermiform appendix is a small growth located in the large intestine. It is best known for being the site of appendicitis, an inflammation requiring the removal of the appendix by surgery (appendectomy).
The appendix is a small growth from the cecum, the first segment of the large intestine. The cecum follows on from the small intestine, to which it is connected by the ileocecal valve. It is near this valve that the appendix is located, hence the name ileocecal appendix.
What side is your appendix on?
Generally speaking, the appendix is said to be located at the bottom right of the navel. However, its location can vary, which can make it difficult to diagnose appendicitis. In the abdomen, this growth can take several positions:
- a sub-cecal position, horizontal and below the cecum.
- a mid-cecal position, slightly oblique downwards.
- a retro-cecal position, high and behind the cecum.
Look of the appendix
The appendix looks like a hollow pocket. Its size is quite variable with a length between 2 and 12 centimeters and a diameter between 4 and 8 millimeters. The shape of this growth is often compared to that of a worm, hence the name of the vermiform appendage.
What is the appendix for?
To date, the role of the appendix is not fully understood. According to some researchers, this growth may be unnecessary in the body. However, other hypotheses have been put forward by the researchers. According to their work, this growth could play a role in the defense of the body.
Role in immunity
According to some studies, the appendix may intervene in the immune system to strengthen the body’s defenses. Some scientific results suggest that immunoglobulins (antibodies) may be produced in the appendix. In 2007, researchers at Duke University Medical Center put forward another explanation. Their results show that the appendix is home to beneficial bacterial flora that is held in reserve to respond to severe indigestion. However, the immune function of the appendix remains debated in the scientific community to this day.
Appendicitis corresponds to an inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis is usually caused by a blockage of the appendix with feces or foreign objects. This obstruction can also be caused by an alteration of the intestinal lining or the development of a tumor at the base of the appendix. Conducive to microbial growth, this obstruction will cause an inflammatory reaction, which can manifest itself by various symptoms:
- abdominal pain near the navel, which usually gets worse over the hours.
- digestive disturbances, which can sometimes occur in the form of nausea, vomiting or constipation.
- a mild fever, which occurs in some cases.
Treatment of appendicitis
Appendicitis requires prompt medical attention as it can lead to serious complications such as peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum) or sepsis (generalized infection). Occurring mainly in people under the age of 30, this inflammation is the most common medical emergency.
Treatment of appendicitis requires urgent surgery: appendectomy. This involves removing the appendix to prevent infection from developing in the body. Common, this operation represents on average 30% of surgical procedures performed on the abdomen in the United States. It can be done in two different ways:
- in the classic way, by making an incision of a few centimeters near the navel, which allows access to the appendix.
- by laparoscopy or laparoscopy, by making three incisions of a few millimeters in the abdomen, which allows a camera to be introduced to guide the surgeon’s actions.