Appendicitis is pretty common - about 680,000 people - both kids and adults - will be affected by appendicitis each year - that’s about 1 per minute in the US! The appendix is a blind-ending tube with no apparent function that extends off the first part of the colon or large intestine, in the right lower part of the abdomen, near the hip bone.
Appendicitis may be diagnosed purely on physical signs and symptoms (right lower quadrant pain, focal tenderness, fever and elevated white blood cell count) in some patients. If the diagnosis is questioned and imaging is needed, there are several options. Ultrasound is a great first step because it is noninvasive, quick, easy and involves no radiation. Imaging right where the patient is symptomatic is also quite helpful and easy to do with ultrasound.
With ultrasound, images with gentle, slow, graded pushing on the area of symptoms in the right lower quadrant are obtained with a transducer or probe. Appendicitis shows up as a tubular structure that does not push out of the way or compress, often with changes in the adjacent fat from the inflammation. This will often cause the patient to say, “Ouch, that is where it hurts.” If the symptoms are NOT related to the appendix, ultrasound can also help identify other potential sources of pain in the area, such as ovarian cysts, problems with the kidney or problems with the small bowel among lots of other causes.
If the ultrasound is inconclusive but symptoms persist, a CT scan is also an option for evaluation of the right lower quadrant.
There are many causes for pain in the lower right abdomen - if you have symptoms, see your doctor. Your doctor - with or without the help of your friendly radiologist - can work to determine the cause of your pain and treatment needed to get you back to good health.
Originally published 3/6/14 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.