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Clinical Manifestations of Appendicitis in Children

Appendicitis has been labeled as a very difficult to diagnose internal disorder. The symptoms of appendicitis are often vague and unspecific, thus rendering the process of diagnosis very difficult. Appendicitis rarely generates outwardly visible clinical manifestations and doctors often require additional tests in the process of diagnosing the disorder. In order to confirm the presumptive diagnoses of appendicitis, doctors rely on blood analysis, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound tests. However, even modern medical procedures have a certain degree of imprecision and doctors are faced with a real challenge when it comes to diagnosing unspecific cases of appendicitis.

Although it can occur at any age, appendicitis is common in very young children and teenagers. At early ages, children experience serious difficulties in coping with appendicitis and in many cases they present with complications by the time they receive an appropriate medical treatment. Children perceive more intense symptoms of appendicitis and they often experience a wide range of uncharacteristic clinical manifestations. While older children are able to communicate their distress, very young children and babies are unable to express themselves and thus they are more difficult to diagnose with internal disorders such as appendicitis.

While the most common clinical manifestations of appendicitis in adults are intense abdominal pain and discomfort (at first in the umbilical region, later spreading to the right lower side of the abdomen), nausea and fatigue, children may experience additional symptoms such as irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. Considering the fact that appendicitis often involves bacterial infection of the vermiform appendix, children commonly experience high fever, intense sweating and chills. Infants and very young children may experience exacerbated appendicitis symptoms.

Although children often experience intense, visible symptoms of appendicitis, such clinical manifestations mimic those of various other internal disorders and thus they aren't reliable in the process of diagnosis. Considering the fact that some medical techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) and ultrasound tests aren't always appropriate for diagnosing very young children and infants, doctors usually perform more elaborate physical examinations (abdominal and rectal examinations) along with blood analyses instead. If all clinical manifestations and blood tests results point to appendicitis, doctors usually recommend medical intervention.

The medical treatment for appendicitis requires surgical intervention. The medical procedure for removing the diseased appendix is called appendectomy and nowadays it can be performed safely and with minimal scarring. Timely performed, appendectomy can prevent the occurrence of serious complications (rupturing of the appendix, sepsis, abcess) and doctors recommend this surgical intervention to most young patients diagnosed with appendicitis.

It is very important to ask for medical guidance as soon as you spot any signs of abdominal pain and discomfort in your child. Abdominal pain, vomiting and fever are common signs of childhood appendicitis and you should quickly inform a doctor of the presence of such manifestations in your child.

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