Acute appendicitis is acute inflammation and infection of the vermiform appendix, which is most commonly referred to simply as the appendix. The appendix is a blind-ending structure arising from the cecum. Acute appendicitis is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain and is the most frequent condition leading to emergent abdominal surgery in children. The appendix may be involved in other infectious, inflammatory, or chronic processes that can lead to appendectomy; however, this article focuses on acute appendicitis. Appendicitis and acute appendicitis are used interchangeably.
Common symptoms of acute appendicitis include abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. The diagnosis of appendicitis can be difficult in children because the classic symptoms are often not present.
A delay in the diagnosis of appendicitis is associated with rupture and associated complications, especially in young children. Improvements in rupture rates have been made with advanced radiologic imaging. Appendicitis is a clinical diagnosis with imaging used to confirm equivocal cases. The definitive treatment for appendicitis is appendectomy. Key to any evaluation and treatment plan are the following: relieve the patient’s pain and discomfort early and consistently; communicate with the patient and family about the plans; repeat the examination often; adjust the differential diagnosis as appropriate; and keep the patient for observation if a firm diagnosis is not made.