By Kathy Hubbard
The article said, “Charles Bergstrom, who recently underwent an operation by Dr. Stackhouse for a ruptured appendix, is rapidly getting out of danger.” An example of HIPAA law infraction? No, this article ran 100 years ago. Good job Dr. Stackhouse!
Bet back then, Dr. Stackhouse probably told Mr. Bergstrom that he didn’t need his appendix and was well rid of it. At that time he had no reason to believe otherwise. But, studies in the last several years have disputed that theory.
A study conducted at Duke University School of Medicine states that the appendix is “a ‘safe house’ for the beneficial bacteria living in the human gut.”
“While there is no smoking gun, the abundance of circumstantial evidence makes a strong case for the role of the appendix as a place where the good bacteria can live safe and undisturbed until they are needed,” said William Parker, PhD, assistant professor of experimental surgery.
The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch around two- to four-inches long located near the juncture of the large and small intestines. The Duke article says that its exact function has been debated forever, but it is known that there is immune system tissue in the appendix.
“The gut is populated with different microbes that help the digestive system break down the foods we eat. In return, the gut provides nourishment and safety to the bacteria. Parker now believes that the immune system cells found in the appendix are there to protect, rather than harm, the good bacteria,” the article explains. You can read it all if you search “Duke Appendix Study.”
We don’t know anything about Charles Bergstrom, but do know that appendicitis affects more males than females. The American Journal of Epidemiology study states that appendicitis is a common condition affecting approximately 6.7 percent of females and 8.6 percent of males. Somewhere in the 250,000 cases of appendicitis are reported each year. And, although anyone can have appendicitis it’s more common in teens and those in their early twenties.
An article in Everyday Health says, “It’s not always clear what causes appendicitis, but it’s sometimes due to a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection that has spread to the appendix. More often, appendicitis is the result of an obstruction of the area inside of the appendix, called the appendiceal lumen or appendix lumen. There are numerous issues that can cause appendix lumen blockage.”
Those blockages can include calcified fecal deposits also known as “appendix stones;” parasites; irritation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract; abdominal injury or trauma; enlarged lymph tissue of the wall of the appendix which is typically the result of a GI tract infection, and various foreign objects.
“When the organ becomes infected or blocked up, the bacteria multiply rapidly, causing your appendix to swell and fill with pus – a thick liquid containing bacteria, tissue cells, and dead, infection-fighting white blood cells,” the Everyday Health article states.
“Eventually the appendix will rupture, spewing its contents throughout the abdomen. In some cases, abscesses may form on the ruptured appendix; if the abscesses tear, they can infect the rest of the abdomen. In other cases, the ruptured appendix may cause the peritoneum to become infected, a condition called peritonitis.”
What hasn’t changed in the last 100 years is the potential danger of appendicitis, although modern antibiotics and surgical procedures have greatly diminished the risk of dying from a ruptured appendix the trick is to seek medical care quickly when experiencing abdominal pain.
Besides a severe pain that starts at the belly button and works down the right side of the abdomen, one might experience a loss of appetite; nausea; vomiting; low-grade fever; inability to pass gas; abdominal swelling and constipation or diarrhea. The pain will spike if you cough, sneeze or take a deep breath.
“Your lower right abdomen will be tender, and you will experience pain if you put pressure on the area and quickly release it (a symptom called ‘rebound tenderness’),” the article explains.
If you have any of these symptoms, or any severe abdominal pain, the decision to go to the Emergency Department is a wise one. Dr. Stackhouse is gone, but excellent care is alive and well.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Committee. She can be reached at 264-4029 or email@example.com.