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Pediatric Appendicitis

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis occurs when your appendix gets infected, a small organ where the small and large intestines meet, becomes inflamed and infected. This organ helps us make antibodies when we’re very young. Appendicitis is very common and is one of the most cited reasons for abdominal surgery in the US.   

Appendicitis in Children

In pediatric appendicitis the blockage leading to inflammation may be caused by hardened stool, lymphoid tissue enlargement, or parasites. This condition is most prevalent in children aged 9 to 12, affecting roughly 70 to 120 out of every 100,000 kids. 

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Signs of Pediatric Appendicitis

The typical signs of an inflamed appendix in children can include a combination of:

  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low-grade fever. 

However, symptoms can also extend to diarrhea, discomfort during urination, and lower back pain. If you observe any of these symptoms in your child, or suspect pediatric appendicitis, it is important to seek immediate medical attention to prevent severe outcomes like a ruptured appendix.

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How is appendicitis fixed? What is a pediatric appendectomy?

If your child is diagnosed with appendicitis, the best treatment is to remove the infected appendix. You’ll hear the doctors call that procedure an appendectomy! Like our tonsils and gallbladder, the appendix is not a vital organ, and removing it has no serious impact on our long-term health. There are two types of appendectomies surgeons use to get your child on the road to recovery:

Minimally Invasive Appendectomy (Laparoscopic) and Recovery: 

These are performed by making a small incision in the patient’s abdomen and removing the appendix through the incision with the help of a tiny camera. They have the advantage of being minimally invasive and having shorter recovery times. Our doctors will try to perform these when possible because it’s easier for our bodies to heal smaller cuts.

Open Appendectomy and Recovery:

Surgeons make a single larger incision in the patient’s abdomen so they can remove the infected appendix. Typically, your child’s care team will only opt for this if the appendix had burst, the infection spread, or if there were other complications. The only drawback is that they have longer recovery times, but remember they’re necessary if a laparoscopic appendectomy isn’t appropriate for your child.

Are appendectomies safe?

When kids undergo any type of operation it’s natural for parents to worry. That’s why we want to reassure you appendectomies are safe and are not considered risky procedures. If you still have concerns about the process, take a minute to read about the experience of Logan and his mom when he needed an emergency appendectomy.

Remember, neither type of appendectomy is more or less effective than the other, because they both remove the source of appendicitis. Your child’s care team will make sure they’re cared for and that you as their parent or guardian are comfortable! 

A Patient's Appendectomy Experience at Golisano Children's Hospital of SWFL

How to Reduce the Risk of Pediatric Appendicitis

While there's no guaranteed way to prevent appendicitis, every day lifestyle choices can help your child's overall health and reduce their risk factors for appendicitis. Ensuring a balanced diet, regular exercise, and good hygiene can reduce risk factors. 

At Golisano Children's Hospital, we are dedicated to providing top-tier pediatric care and education to ensure the health and safety of your child. If you suspect your child may have appendicitis, contact us for immediate support and expert care.

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