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What Is Chronic Appendicitis?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chronic appendicitis is a rare condition that involves long-term swelling of the appendix, which is a small piece of tissue at the bottom of the large intestine. Acute appendicitis usually produces severe symptoms, and immediate surgery to remove the appendix is typically necessary. The chronic form of the illness may not require surgery, though some doctors elect to remove the appendix in cases of chronic appendicitis because the appendix is not needed for any major bodily function. Appendicitis can cause the appendix to swell to the point of bursting, which empties liquids into the abdomen that can lead to a serious infection.

Symptoms of chronic appendicitis are very similar to the symptoms of acute appendicitis, but they typically last longer and are not as severe. Abdominal pain is the most common symptom, and it usually starts around the navel area and radiates to the right side of the abdomen. The pain is often worse when lifting heavy objects or making sudden movements. Tenderness to touch is another common symptom, and chronic appendicitis patients may also experience minor nausea and abdominal swelling.

The symptoms of appendicitis are the same as other abdominal problems and ailments, so doctors often need to perform several tests to diagnose the condition. If acute, severe appendicitis is ruled out and a doctor usually performs a manual examination of the abdomen to check for swelling and tenderness near the appendix. In some cases, imaging studies, such as ultrasounds, are needed to detect inflammation. Blood and urine tests may be ordered to detect underlying infections that may be responsible for chronic inflammation of the appendix.

In some cases, chronic appendicitis can be treated with antibiotics that relieve the swelling and infection. Many patients diagnosed with the condition may need antibiotics on a regular basis, but the swelling often comes back. Patients who are otherwise healthy and able to undergo surgery without any major risks, such as allergic reactions to anesthesia or abnormally heavy bleeding, may have their appendixes removed to prevent the condition from recurring.

During an appendectomy, a surgeon makes a long incision in the abdomen or several small incisions to enter the abdomen with a laparoscope, a small instrument with a light and camera on the end. Laparoscopic surgery allows the patient to heal quicker and is often suitable for patients with chronic appendicitis because the appendix hasn't ruptured. Once the appendix has been removed, the patient must rest for several days and avoid strenuous activities that could cause the incision to split open.

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Discussion Comments
By anon983938 — On Jan 03, 2015

@anon947995: Take him to the emergency room and insist that something be done. I had chronic appendicitis for just five or six months, and I thought I was dying. Your poor baby! The pain is almost unbearable, and the nausea unrelenting. Nothing brings relief!

Until they figured out what my issue was, they treated me (by the fourth emergency clinic visit) as a drug seeker. The fifth time, they were just rude and sent me to the hospital who did the scan and concluded that I had appendicitis! It is, indeed, relatively rare and doctors don't even believe it happens. I happened to be blessed with a surgeon who did, and took it out. I've had no more trouble.

Go to the ER. Go to a specialist. Find someone to listen. Your poor baby! I'm almost in tears thinking of what that poor little guy has had to endure.

By anon947995 — On Apr 28, 2014

My son has had appendix attacks for 1 1/2 years now. He is doubled over in pain, throws up, low grade fever, can't eat, can't sleep etc.

I took him to the ER and they did a CT scan. His appendix is three times larger than it should be and is further up in his stomach than normal. They gave him IVs with fluids and antibiotics and he felt much better by the time the surgeon got there. The surgeon said, "this does not look like someone who has appendicitis," despite the CT scan, etc. He said, "Appendicitis doesn't just get better". I guess the retard never heard of chronic appendicitis.

So every month or two, my son has these "attacks" that last for days at a time and I know what it is but is there a doctor out there that will do something for it? Or will they just let him suffer?

By anon947132 — On Apr 24, 2014

I was diagnosed with chronic appendicitis, and the docs told me to "wait it out" and see if it goes away unless a fever spikes, then rush off to the ER for a nice CT scan and have it removed. They really hate removing and doing surgery, least for Kaiser docs, they try to give you pills or just tell you to go put heat on it until hopefully, the swelling goes down.

By umbra21 — On Jul 15, 2013

If you are having appendicitis symptoms, don't try to tough them out. You should go to the doctor immediately. Even if it seems like chronic appendicitis, which isn't as dangerous (but can still be deadly) you should go, because the same symptoms can account for several different diseases.

The appendix can become cancerous like any other organ and people might also mistake some other kind of pain for appendix pain. It's better to just go to the doctor and make sure you are OK.

By Fa5t3r — On Jul 14, 2013

@browncoat - Having any kind of operation is dangerous, but having one where they actually remove a part of your body is really dangerous. If it wasn't, they would just go in and remove everyone's appendices when we were children, because why take the risk?

On top of that, recent research actually shows that the appendix isn't completely vestigial and is used somehow in the immune system and to help maintain gut bacteria. So, removing the appendix can actually do some harm to people, although, of course, if they get a diagnosis of appendicitis, it's still a better option to risk all of this and remove it, since the alternative can be death.

By browncoat — On Jul 13, 2013

I don't understand why a doctor wouldn't choose to just take the appendix out when the patient has chronic appendicitis. It sounds like the signs of chronic appendicitis are fairly painful and will eventually end up just as bad as acute appendicitis, so why not just take the organ out? It's not something that people need at all, and I'm sure if someone can get this disease once, they will always be vulnerable to getting it. Better to just take care of the source of the problem.

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