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Appendicitis

It used to be that almost everyone had their appendix removed at some point during their childhood. Now however, the surgery isn’t as common and many adults still have their appendix.

Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, a small organ attached to the large intestine. In the past, doctors thought that the appendix didn’t have any function, but now they aren’t sure. Since we can live without our appendix, if it becomes infected, it is often removed by a surgery called an appendectomy.

Your appendix can become inflamed for a number of reasons. It can be blocked by mucus, stool (bowel movement), or lymphatic tissue, part of the lymphatic system that helps fight infection. The normally harmless bacteria in the appendix then begins to attack the appendix walls, resulting in inflammation and infection. If left untreated, this can rupture the appendix wall, causing the infection to spread in the abdomen and, possibly, throughout the body, resulting in sepsis or severe sepsis.

Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (don’t work properly), and/or amputations.

Sepsis may also occur as a complication of the surgery in general.

Common Appendicitis Symptoms

Appendicitis symptoms are not always obvious at first and the inflammation may have been developing for up to 48 hours before they are noticed. Because of this, it is important to seek medical help when the symptoms do appear. While everyone is different, the usual signs and symptoms of appendicitis include:

Early Symptoms

  • Constipation, diarrhea, or gas
  • Dull, achy pain beginning around the belly button (navel), turning to sharp pain in the lower right portion of the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rebound tenderness: tenderness when pressure applied to the lower right abdomen is released

More Advanced Symptoms

  • Abdomen swelling and rigidity (hard)
  • Pain on the right side of the abdomen when pressed on the left side

If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.” 

The information here is also available as a Sepsis Information Guide, which is a downloadable format for easier printing.

Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.

Updated November 1, 2021.

Read Personal Stories of Sepsis and Appendicitis

Judith Clark

Survivor

In 2015 I was on a cruise ship on the Atlantic Ocean when my appendix ruptured. (Sepsis and Appendicitis) After hours of waiting, a Portuguese military helicopter airlifted me to the Ponte Delgada in the Azore Islands. I had a ruptured appendix and sepsis for about 8 hours. It was difficult to know how long I went with a ruptured appendix prior to surgery. After 5 hours of surgery and 2 weeks in the hospital, I returned home to the San Francisco Bay Area. Since then I had 2 surgeries for an incisional hernia and 1 surgery for adhesiolysis. Through ... Read Full Story

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Alyne Vasques da Silva

Survivor, Survivor

I spent a good part of the time looking for help in medical offices followed by several hospitalizations without any probable diagnosis, that’s when dyspnea, severe pain, high fever, edema and confusion started. It was then that I went to the operating room and found that I had a complicated asymptomatic appendicitis, which rendered me several days in a coma struggling in the ICU to cure sepsis, with some more severe complications came mediastinitis, necrosis in a part of the intestine , peritonitis and a stopper in the tracheostomy tube that led to a cardiorespiratory arrest that is difficult to ... Read Full Story

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Barbie Nesser

Survivor, Survivor, Survivor

Hi my name is Barbie and I am 62 years old. It was June of 2020 when I had my 4th UTI in 6 months. (Sepsis and Urinary Tract Infections) I was prescribed Macrobid on June 10th. By Friday I was experiencing back pain. It was late in the day, but I decided to call my primary doctor. Luckily my doctor called me back. She asked if we could FaceTime. My doctor thought I did not look very well and I also developed a stye in my eye and I never had them before. It was evident that I was ... Read Full Story

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Brian Mann

Survivor, Survivor, Survivor, Survivor

I am a sepsis survivor. I had not heard of this condition until I developed it, despite having a medical family. In 2018 I started having stomachaches that came and went in early June. This was a time when food poisoning was occurring throughout the nation with fresh produce greens, which I had eaten. The stomachaches came and went, but never became any worse – until one day, I began sweating despite cold skin. Then over the course of 6 hours, my stomach hurt worse and worse until I was driven into the emergency room. A CT scan revealed appendicitis. ... Read Full Story

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Hailey B.

Survivor, Survivor, Survivor, Survivor, Survivor

I survived sepsis at the age of 23. I began having nights where I would wake up with unimaginable stomach pain, but it would be gone by morning. I, like anyone would, immediately assumed it was food poisoning, or cramps. Trying not to assume the worst, I would manage it with Advil, Pepto Bismol or heating pads. After the third night of pain, I made an appointment with my doctor. She told me my white blood cell count was very high and ordered ultrasounds. The results were inconclusive, so there was nothing much I could do. 2 more nights of ... Read Full Story

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Appendicitis

Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, a small organ attached to the large intestine. In the past, doctors thought that the appendix didn’t have any function, but now they aren’t sure. Since we can live without our appendix, if it becomes infected, it is often removed by a surgery called an appendectomy