Appendicitis, which is when the appendix can become swollen and painful (“inflamed”) is considered a medical emergency that affects 1 in 20 people in the United States per year. An appendix normally becomes inflamed when it is blocked off for some reason – by stool, a foreign body, etc. If not treated, the appendix will rupture (perforate) and spill out infectious material into your stomach. This can lead to peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines your inner abdominal wall and covers the organs within your abdomen), sepsis, septic shock (a wide spread untreated infection causing organ failure and a low blood pressure) and death.
A perforated appendix is not a death sentence though. With timely treatment it is possible to make a full recovery. Because of the dire conditions an untreated ruptured appendix can lead to then, it is critical that an examining doctor be familiar with, and able to identify, the signs and symptoms of appendicitis or a perforated appendix. They include:
- Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is usually the first sign.
- Sudden pain that begins on the right side of the lower abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Pain that worsens if you cough, walk or make other jarring movements
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling of your stomach
- A fever of 99 – 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to pass gas
However, when someone is suffering from appendicitis or a ruptured appendix, not all of the classical signs and symptoms of these conditions may be present. Therefore, it is also important to do imaging studies to help determine if you are suffering from appendicitis or a ruptured appendix. A CT scan is known to have 90% accuracy for diagnosing a ruptured appendix. When determining if there is an issue with the appendix, it will be important for the radiologist or other reviewing physician to visualize the cecum (a large pouch marking the beginning of the large intestine to which the appendix attaches) and the appendix. Classic signs of a perforated appendix include an abnormally enlarged appendix with perihepatic fluid and inflammation/periappendiceal soft tissue stranding. If this is seen in imaging, surgical intervention will be needed immediately.
Claims involving appendicitis or a perforated appendix can include a failure to follow up and diagnose these conditions when a patient presents with signs and symptoms of appendicitis or a perforated appendix, or not ordering an imaging study – such as a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis – when a patient presents with signs and symptoms of these issues. Even if a CT scan is ordered, if it plainly shows either appendicitis or a perforated appendix and is missed by the radiologist or other reviewing physician this could also lead to a malpractice claim. Unfortunately if there is a significant delay in treating a perforated appendix this will likely lead to your loved one passing, in which case a family member or other person would represent their estate in litigation.
The Thistle Firm is experienced in handling cases involving the misdiagnosis and failure to treat appendicitis and ruptured appendix. If you or a loved one suffered serious harm because of a delay in diagnosis and treatment of these issues the attorneys at The Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call at 215-568-6800.