What is an appendix, where is it located and why is it needed

What is an appendix

The appendix is a small appendix of the caecum, from which the large intestine begins.

Image: Drp8/Shutterstock

Previously, it was considered a rudimentary organ , that is, one of those that, in the process of evolution, lost their functions or most of them. This view is now being reconsidered. Perhaps people need the appendix more than they thought.

Where is the appendix

Most often on the right. But it can also be found on the left if the intestines are mobile or the organs are mirrored.

It is difficult to say exactly where this process is located. A healthy appendix is only 6 mm thick, but can be from 2 to 20 cm long. Therefore, there are several options for its location in relation to the caecum (from the Latin caecum):

  • subcecal, or under the caecum;
  • retrocaecal, or behind the caecum;
  • retroileal, that is, behind the ileum;
  • preileal, or in front of the ileum;
  • pelvic;
  • otherwise.

This is only one of the classifications, there are others.

Why does a person need an appendix

It was once thought that the remnant of the caecum was preserved in the form of an appendix, thanks to which primates digested plant foods. When our ancestors began to prefer fruits over leaves and other tougher parts of plants, it decreased as unnecessary. They thought so, because the process seemed to have no functions, and after its removal, a person’s life did not change in any way.

Later it turned out that modern mammals have a similar structure: beavers, koalas , porcupines. So researchers began to study whether an appendix appeared in any species due to a change in diet. It was found that in the process of the development of the fauna, the organ evolved from 18 to 32 times and the human body differs from those that other animals have. This means that the process is still needed for some reason.

When they began to study its structure, it turned out that it has a lot of lymphoid tissue – a special system of immune cells, such as macrophages and lymphocytes. Animals without an appendix, such as dogs and cats, have this tissue at the end of the caecum. Therefore, scientists have suggested that the process is somehow connected with immunity.

But recently, researchers have determined that this is not entirely true. Due to the lymphoid tissue in the appendix, the bacteria we need are supported. Some kind of stock of them lives in it, which can quickly restore normal microbiota, for example, after diarrhea. This helped people survive in places like Africa and Southeast Asia, where acute intestinal infections often occur, at a time when medicine and hygiene were still poorly developed.

Until now, the appendix is being studied, and perhaps scientists will find some more of its functions. But this does not mean that the process must be protected and cannot be operated on. In modern society, it is much easier to die from its inflammation than from the consequences of its removal.

What can happen to the appendix

The appendix can become inflamed , a condition called appendicitis . This happens if the lumen of the process is clogged. Then the pressure in it increases, the bacteria multiply intensively, a pathological process begins, which can even threaten life.

Therefore, you need to urgently call an ambulance if you have the following symptoms:

  • sudden pain around the navel that moves to the right lower abdomen or begins there immediately;
  • pain that gets worse with coughing, walking, or other movements
  • nausea up to vomiting;
  • loss of appetite;
  • constipation or diarrhea;
  • temperature rise;
  • bloating and flatulence.

But it will not always hurt in the lower abdomen on the right, because, as we have already said, the appendix has several options for location. Sometimes this makes it difficult to make a quick diagnosis: for example, in a woman, appendicitis can be mistaken for an ectopic pregnancy . And if the process is located deep behind the intestine, then there may be no symptoms at all.

Very rarely, tumors develop in the appendix. Fortunately, they usually respond well to treatment.

How is appendix treated

Most often not. Treatment of appendicitis with antibiotics is extremely rare. Usually, the inflamed process is simply removed. Sometimes additional therapy may be prescribed after this, for example, if peritonitis has developed.

The same is true for cancer. As a rule, surgery is needed here, and then chemotherapy.

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