Why you can live without your appendix

Why you can live without your appendix

If you get a sudden, sharp pain in your right side, your first thought might be appendicitis. While this condition most often requires immediate surgery to remove the inflamed organ, the good news is you can live without it. In fact, 7% of people worldwide have had their appendix removed.

The appendix is a small organ attached to the large intestine on the right side of your abdomen. It’s a vestigial organ, meaning it no longer serves a vital function in the human body.

“The appendix used to play a larger role in digestion but nowadays only provides minimal gut support which is why people can live healthy lives once their appendix is removed,” explains Dr. Hayley Springs, a general surgeon at Advocate Health Care. “It’s also much smaller in size than it used to be, about 3-4 inches long.”

Although a healthy appendix goes unnoticed, an infected or ruptured appendix caused by a blockage, tumor or virus can cause severe pain and be potentially life threatening.

“When your appendix bursts, bacteria spreads into your abdominal cavity,” explains Dr. Springs. “Typical treatment includes an emergency appendectomy – the surgical removal of the appendix – and antibiotics to prevent the spread of bacteria.”

Over 280,000 appendectomies are performed in the U.S. each year, according to the American Medical Association. However, the commonly performed abdominal surgery has evolved over the years. Now, many minimally invasive techniques are used to speed up recovery time and improve overall outcomes, when possible.

If you have symptoms of appendicitis, such as severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite and/or a fever, seek emergency medical attention.

Are you trying to find a doctor? Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin.

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is an external communications specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her bachelor's degree in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in health care public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.