Healthsheet

When Your Child Has Appendicitis

When Your Child Has Appendicitis

The appendix is a small, hollow piece of tissue attached to the colon (large intestine). An infection of the appendix is called appendicitis. Surgery is most often needed right away to remove an infected appendix. Your doctor will tell you more about your child’s condition and what your options are.

The Appendix

Waste moves through the colon and passes in and out of the appendix. In some cases, waste can be trapped inside the appendix. When this happens, an infection can form. An infected appendix can swell and then burst (rupture). This can be very dangerous. This is why surgery is often done right away to remove the appendix before it bursts.

What Are the Symptoms of Appendicitis?

Symptoms can appear very quickly. They may happen over a period of hours to one or two days. They may include:

  • Pain that starts in the center of the belly and moves to the lower right side

  • Pain that gets worse with walking

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Low appetite

  • Fever

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Diarrhea (loose, watery stool) or constipation (hard, dry stool)

Surgery is needed to remove an infected appendix before it ruptures.

How Is Appendicitis Diagnosed?

An exam will be done to locate the source of your child’s pain. Tests may be done if needed. These include blood tests or urine tests. A test that takes a picture of the abdomen may be done. This might be an x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan.

How Is Appendicitis Treated?

Surgery is done to take out the appendix. This is called an appendectomy. It may be done in one of two ways:

  • Open surgery. A single incision 2 to 3 inches long is made in the lower right part of the abdomen. If the appendix has ruptured, the incision may need to be bigger.

  • Laparoscopic surgery. Between 2 and 4 small incisions are made in the abdomen. A laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera) is put through one incision. It shows the inside of the abdomen on a screen. Tools are put into the other incisions.

The incision(s) will be closed with sutures or staples. A tube may be inserted for a short time. This is done to drain fluid. If the appendix has ruptured, the incision may be left open. This lets it drain more easily. It may heal on its own. Or it may be closed 4 or 5 days later.

Your Child’s Recovery

Your child will likely stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. If the appendix has ruptured, the stay may be a week or more. During this time:

  • Your child will be given medication to help relieve pain.

  • Fluids may be given through an intravenous (IV) line.

  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or fight infection.

  • Your child will be given only liquids at first. This is to let the colon heal. Solid food is then slowly started again.

  • Your child should avoid heavy lifting, contact sports, and rough play for 3 to 4 weeks. Once the incisions heal, your child can go back to all activities.

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Signs of infection at the incision site, such as swelling, drainage, worsening pain, or unusual redness

  • Fever of 100.4°F or higher

  • Worsening abdominal pain

  • Severe diarrhea, bloating, or constipation

  • Nausea or vomiting


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