What Is Chronic Appendicitis, And How Is It Treated?

The appendix is a small, thin sac in the lower right part of the abdomen which is connected to the large intestine. Although its exact function is not well understood, new studies are emerging for better clarity. In the past, it was thought that the appendix served no real purpose and was simply a vestigial organ. But more recent research has suggested that the appendix may play a role in the immune system, per a 2007 study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center. 

According to the University, the appendix contains good bacteria that can help repopulate the digestive system after an illness or a course of antibiotics, which can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. This claim is reiterated in a 2017 study published by Midwestern University.

Despite its potential role in the immune system, the appendix comes with problems of its own such as appendicitis — a medical condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and swollen. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), there were 17.7 million cases of appendicitis in 2019.

What is chronic appendicitis, and what causes it?

Chronic appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix gets infected or inflamed over an extended period of time, per Medical News Today. The condition accounts for 1.5 % of all cases of appendicitis, according to this 2017 case report published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology.

The exact cause of chronic appendicitis is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a blockage in the appendix, such as a buildup of feces, tumors, and enlarged lymph nodes and glands, says Medical News Today.

Other factors that may contribute to chronic appendicitis include worms, calcified fecal deposits, and trauma, per Healthline. According to the source, the symptoms of chronic appendicitis are mild and often include abdominal pain (often on the right side), nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and fever. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it's best to consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Diagnosis and treatment

If you are experiencing symptoms of appendicitis, it is important to see a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, appendicitis can lead to a ruptured appendix, which can cause a potentially life-threatening infection. Diagnosing chronic appendicitis often begins with a physical exam. Laboratory tests, and imaging tests, such as CT scans or ultrasound, may also be used to diagnose chronic appendicitis and rule out other conditions, says Medical News Today.

According to Healthline, treatment for chronic appendicitis usually involves antibiotics to clear the infection. The standard treatment for appendicitis is the removal of the appendix. This is done through a surgical procedure known as an appendectomy. In some cases, a minimally invasive procedure known as laparoscopic appendectomy may be used. This procedure typically involves removing the appendix through small incisions in the abdomen, says the source.