Easier way to spot appendicitis sooner?

December 14, 2009 CAUSE: The appendix is a fingerlike pouch attached to the large intestine in the lower right area of the abdomen. The inside of the appendix is called the appendiceal lumen, and it carries mucus into the large intestine. Obstruction of this area is what causes appendicitis. When the lumen obstructs, mucus builds up and causes bacteria to multiply. As a result, the appendix swells and becomes infected. The appendiceal lumen can become obstructed by various sources including parasites, enlarged lymph tissue caused by other infection, Crohn's disease and abdominal trauma. If an infected and inflamed appendix isn't removed, it will rupture, or burst -- which can sometimes lead to death.

TREATMENT: Most often, appendicitis is treated by removing the appendix. Some research suggests nonsurgical treatment including antibiotics and a liquid or soft diet is effective in treating some cases. Scientists aren't sure what the appendix does, but it appears removal of the organ doesn't affect a person's health.

DIAGNOSIS: Most doctors diagnose appendicitis through a medical history and physical examination, but with current methods, 30 to 45 percent of those diagnosed have already experienced a rupture. While lab biomarkers for the condition have been identified, none have proved reliable enough to be clinically useful, according to Children's Hospital Boston. Using a technique called mass spectrometry, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston's Proteomics Center have identified the most accurate biomarker for appendicitis so far. The technique involves detecting and quantifying specific proteins in a urine sample. In the first phase of their study, researchers examined six urine samples from patients with appendicitis and six from patients without, and identified and compared 57 potential biomarkers for the condition to those in 67 children who had been hospitalized for suspected appendicitis. They identified seven promising urine biomarkers for appendicitis, one of which appears to accurately signal local inflammation caused by the condition.


Jamie Newton
Public Relations
Children's Hospital Boston
(617) 919-3110

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