Appendicitis in Children

When your child has severe stomach pain, you may suspect appendicitis. Appendicitis occurs most often between the ages of 5 and 45 with a mean age of 28, but it is rare in children under the age of 2. The incidence is approximately 233/100,000 people. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. The good news is that if you’re worried about your child’s stomach ache being appendicitis, it’s kind of low on the list of possible causes. But it does happen, of course, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms to watch out for. Here’s what you need to know about appendicitis in children.

What is the appendix?

The appendix is approximately 9 centimeters long and is located at, and attached to, the beginning of the large intestine. It is located in the lower right side of your abdomen. It’s not entirely clear to the medical community what the purpose of the appendix is, although some studies suggest it may help in gut health. However, it is clear that humans can live without it with no apparent consequences.

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is, simply put, inflammation of the appendix. However, appendicitis is nothing close to simple. It is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment. Without immediate medical care, the appendix can burst, causing even worse issues. This can happen about 48-72 hours after symptoms first appear, if the appendix is not removed or treated.

What are appendicitis symptoms in children?

If your child has appendicitis, he or she will likely start off with pain around the belly button or to the right lower quadrant of the abdomen. A low grade fever, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea may also be present. Your child will also likely experience loss of appetite. The abdominal pain of appendicitis will get worse as time goes by. If your child’s pain spreads to his or her full abdomen and he or she has higher fevers and appears ill, seek immediate medical care because this could mean the appendix has burst.

How is appendicitis diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor will check for tenderness in the abdomen where the appendix is located. The doctor may order blood tests and imaging tests such as a CT scan and/or abdominal ultrasound to make the diagnosis of appendicitis.

What is the treatment for appendicitis?

Sometimes, the care of appendicitis can be medical/observation.  But, most commonly, your child will need to have their appendix removed in a surgical procedure called an appendectomy. This is often done laparoscopically. Your child will only need to stay in the hospital for a couple days or so to recover, if there are no complications. If your child’s appendix bursts, however, the hospital stay will likely be a little longer as he or she receives IV antibiotics to combat infection.

If your child has abdominal pain, bring them in for an exam at MVP Pediatric. We can evaluate your child’s abdominal pain and make a determination as to whether your child’s belly pain is suggestive of appendicitis or not.