Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions


What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is swelling (inflammation) of the lining or wall of the appendix. The appendix is a small, narrow pouch attached to the large intestine. It is in the right lower belly (abdomen).

Appendicitis usually happens because stool (feces) or small, stone-like pieces of stool (fecaliths, pronounced FEE-kah-liths) block the opening to the appendix. It may also happen when a viral illness makes the appendix swell and become blocked. When the appendix is blocked, bacteria can grow and cause infection. An infected appendix swells and causes pain.

If it's not removed, an inflamed appendix may burst, or perforate. This can spread infection around the abdomen and lead to serious problems.

The appendix doesn't do anything for your child's body. If it is removed, your child will not be missing something their body needs.

Appendicitis in Children

Anyone can get appendicitis, but it is most common for children between the ages of 4 and 15. About 7% to 9% of people get appendicitis some time in their life.

Appendicitis at Seattle Children's

Our surgeons treat many children with appendicitis. This is the most common emergency operation that surgeons in our General and Thoracic Surgery Department perform.

We collaborate with our colleagues in the departments of Radiology and Interventional Radiology who have extensive experience using ultrasound. In most cases, our radiologists are able to diagnose appendicitis using ultrasound and avoid the radiation needed with CT (computed tomography) scan .

When you come to Seattle Children's, you have a team of people to care for your child before, during and after surgery. Along with your child's surgeon, you are connected with nurses, child life specialists and others. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Seattle Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia or pain medicine are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.