Technically you don’t need your appendix, right? It’s a leftover organ that no longer serves any function. That’s what we’ve all been told.
So if there’s ever a problem with the appendix and you suffer the agonizing pain and swelling of appendicitis, the surgeon immediately breaks out the scalpels. And out the organ comes.
Except more recent research reveals we’ve been told wrong. Your appendix does appear to serve a valuable function. You may need it after all.
And the latest research shows how plucking it out could lead to a dangerous condition later on.
But if you ever suffer from appendicitis yourself… or a loved one is rushed to the ER with the condition… there may be a way to avoid both the surgery AND this potentially devastating aftermath.
The hidden toll of an appendectomy
If any emergency surgery could be called “routine,” it’s got to be the appendectomy.
Surgeons can remove an appendix without thinking twice. In fact, it’s so common that an appendectomy is done every 30 seconds, or 280,000 times per year, in the United States alone.
The doctors will likely insist there’s no other option. Except, as you’ll see in a moment, that’s not entirely true.
The new study shows why you’ll want to consider that other “hidden” option before they remove your appendix. Because it finds that people who have an appendectomy can suffer from a frightening condition afterward called microscopic colitis.
It’s a life-altering inflammatory bowel disease marked by frequent and sometimes painful chronic diarrhea. Between the cramping and the mad dashes to the bathroom, it can be challenging to make any plans.
Overall, folks who have an appendectomy are about 50 percent more likely to suffer from microscopic colitis. But it doesn’t happen right away. In fact, it can take about five to ten years to appear, so most people never connect it to the surgery.
It’s not clear entirely why an appendectomy would lead to this condition. But the team behind the new study believes it may be due to immune changes. Specifically, changes caused by the surgery (or loss of the appendix) to the gut mucosa or the protective barrier to the intestine.
In other words, you might need that appendix after all.
Other studies have found that instead of being some useless excess organ, the appendix is a reserve tank of good bacteria your body can call upon in a crisis.
What to do if your own appendix takes a turn
You might think appendix issues aren’t something you need to worry about at your age. After all, appendicitis happens more often in younger folks.
And the older you get, the lower the risk of the condition, right? Well, the truth is you’re not out of the woods at any age.
Appendicitis appears to be becoming more common in seniors as our life expectancy increases. In fact, some patients in the new study were 70 years old.
Other research has found that seniors also face a higher risk of more immediate complications after an appendectomy. And that makes it essential to only have the procedure if it’s absolutely necessary.
And in many cases, it may NOT be necessary. Because it turns out an ordinary antibiotic can often reverse appendicitis.
These powerful drugs can quickly soothe an inflamed appendix. In fact, they do the job so completely and effectively that surgery can be avoided up to 70 percent of the time.
So if you ever have your own battle with appendicitis… or have a loved one who does… be sure to ask if trying an antibiotic first is an option.
But an appendectomy isn’t the only “emergency surgery” that may not always be an actual emergency. In fact, it’s just one of five so-called “urgent” operations that may benefit from another approach. Click here to find out the other four.
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