What's The Difference Between Chronic Appendicitis And Acute Appendicitis?

The appendix is a small pouch located near the small and large intestines. Although it was once thought to be a vestigial organ with no function, it is now believed to play a role in immune function and gut microbiome regulation, per News Medical. The most commonly experienced problem with the appendix is appendicitis, which occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed, per Healthline. This can happen when the opening of the appendix becomes blocked, sometimes due to a build-up of fecal matter. In some cases, the condition can even cause the appendix to burst.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the condition is a common cause of sudden stomach pain in the United States and affects up to 9% of Americans. The condition can be classified into two main types: acute and chronic. Acute appendicitis is the most common, per a 2020 study published in the World Journal of Emergency Surgery.

What's the difference between chronic appendicitis and acute appendicitis?

Acute appendicitis is characterized by a sudden inflammation of the appendix, per Medical News Today. The sudden onset of symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, constipation or diarrhea, and loss of appetite. The pain usually starts around the upper abdomen and then moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. Early diagnosis is vital for prompt treatment. Without treatment, the appendix can burst as soon as two days after the onset of symptoms, reports Johns Hopkins Medicine.

On the other hand, chronic appendicitis is a much less common form of the condition. It is characterized by recurrent or persistent mild abdominal pain that is usually localized to the lower right side of the abdomen, per Healthline. The symptoms are similar to those of the acute form and include abdominal swelling and tenderness. Unlike acute appendicitis, chronic appendicitis symptoms may develop over weeks or months, and the condition may go undiagnosed for a long time.

How is appendicitis treated?

The diagnosis of appendicitis may include blood tests, urine tests, and imaging tests such as an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan. Treating appendicitis typically involves surgical removal of the appendix, also known as an appendectomy. According to a 2021 study published in the journal Annals of Medicine and Surgery, the United States has around 310,000 appendectomies performed yearly.

The appendectomy can be performed using laparoscopic surgery or laparotomy. In laparotomy surgery, a single incision is made in the abdomen. With laparoscopic surgery, several small incisions are made, and a laparoscope (a small camera) is used to see the appendix and surrounding tissues, per the Mayo Clinic. The type of surgery may depend on various factors, such as the severity of appendicitis and whether the appendix has ruptured or not. These factors can be discussed with your doctor. In some cases, if an infection is present, an open appendectomy surgery might be needed to clean the abdominal cavity and remove the inflamed appendix.