Medical Specialties: Emergency medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery

Clinical Definition

Appendicitis is a common medical condition that involves inflammation of the appendix, usually due to a bacterial infection. Inflammation is thought to develop when stool, mucus or a parasite fills the interior of the appendix. In instances of acute appendicitis, if surgical intervention is delayed, complications such as peritonitis can develop.  

In Our Own Words

Appendicitis refers to the inflammation or swelling of the appendix, a small pouch located where the large and small intestine meet. During an appendicitis, characteristic pain in the abdomen and other symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite) are common.


In some cases, doctors and scientists don’t fully understand why the appendix becomes inflamed. However, if the appendix is allowed to continue swelling, it can eventually burst. Gut bacteria will then spill into the abdominal cavity, and a serious, even life-threatening infection can develop.


To prevent rupture and serious infections from developing, an appendectomy (i.e., surgical removal of the appendix) may be necessary.

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  • American Academy of Pediatrics. “Appendicitis.” Updated July 2013. Accessed September 2013.
  • The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Appendicitis.” Accessed September 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. “Appendicitis.” Accessed September 2013.
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