Health Watch - Digestive Tract: Appendicitis

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about the digestive tract. Appendicitis is the most common reason for emergency general surgery. It’s still something of a medical mystery, with doctors unclear on the purpose of the appendix or why it gets infected, but what we thought we knew may not be true.

It’s generally accepted that if someone develops appendicitis, the appendix has to be removed immediately because it will burst. But that may not be true. Dr. Edward Livingston, chief of gastrointestinal surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says that cases where people don’t have access to emergency surgery show that a non-perforated appendix may not burst and may get better on its own. Patients still need to get medical help immediately, though. UT Southwestern doctors also say data suggests that appendicitis may be caused by a virus. It seems to come in waves and with seasonal trends the way viruses do.

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April 2010


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