The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch of intestinal tissue extending from the cecum, which is the first part of the large intestine. Blockage of the opening of the appendix into the bowel by a hard small stool fragment (fecalith) is believed to be a frequent cause of appendicitis.
The infected appendix must be surgically removed (emergency appendectomy), because if it becomes perforated (leaks), this can lead to infection of the entire abdominal space (peritonitis), which can be fatal.
The surgery is done while the patient is unconscious and pain-free, using general anesthesia. A small incision is made in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen, and the appendix is removed.
Alternatively, the appendix may be removed laparoscopically with a smaller incision, using a tiny camera to visualize the area.
If a pocket of infection (an abscess) has formed, or the appendix has ruptured, the abdomen will be thoroughly washed out during surgery, and a small tube may be left in to help drain out fluids or pus.