Medical technology allows for the timely and accurate diagnosis of appendicitis in most cases. There are times though when appendicitis is misdiagnosed. A doctor may mistakenly give the patient a diagnosis of indigestion or the flu. When proper diagnosis is delayed serious complications can arise that require extensive medical treatment and may even lead to death.
The appendix is a small organ that is attached to the colon located in the abdomen in the lower right quadrant. Feces, inflammation of intestinal lymph nodes or parasites can cause the appendix to become blocked. While this organ has no function, if it becomes infected, it can be potentially life threatening. This threat is increased if the appendicitis is misdiagnosed.
When determining whether a patient has appendicitis a physician should apply pressure to the abdomen so that the muscle responses and rebound tenderness can be checked. The physician can also perform a pelvic or rectal examination. To check if there is an elevated white blood cell count, which may indicate infection; blood tests can be carried out. When physical examinations and lab tests do not provide a conclusive answer, CT scans or ultrasounds can be used.
Symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Swelling in the abdominal area
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid onset and worsening of abdominal pain
However, it is possible for patients not to exhibit these symptoms, leaving open the possibility that a physician may misdiagnose the condition.
Failure to properly diagnose appendicitis can result because it can also mimic other medical conditions including:
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Intestinal adhesions
- Intestinal obstruction
- Gynecological disorders
The treatment for appendicitis is the surgical removal of the appendix by either a traditional incision or a laparoscopic procedure. Laparatomies usually have fewer complications and a faster rate of healing due to their being less invasive. However, if the appendix is not removed it can rupture and spill toxic substances into the abdominal cavity. Unfortunately if the appendix bursts the pain will often subside which may lead the patient to believe there is no longer a problem when in fact the situation has become more dire. Patients who do not receive proper treatment the patient could suffer from peritonitis, sepsis, or die.
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