Is It Appendicitis or Something Else?

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

There are always unasked questions in medicine. Patients visit the doctor for care with a complaint, but under the surface there is always more. If the doctor doesn't anticipate and answer what wasn't asked, then the patient leaves the office worried, unsatisfied, and upset. Arrive complaining of a headache, and the doctor offers pain medication, but you want to hear the words "I don't think this is a tumor or a stroke." Have chest pain? You want reassurance that you aren't having a heart attack.

Roy Halladay (pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays) was probably unhappy that his stomachache was really something serious - appendicitis. A little belly pain and the next thing you know, you're in the operating room and being told that you won't pitch again for 6 weeks; all because of a little string of tissue called the appendix. This addendum to the cecum, the area in the right lower part of the abdomen where the small intestine joins the large intestine or colon, causes great worry for doctors and patients alike. The pattern originally described by Dr. McBurney of pain developing around the belly button, followed by nausea, and then having the pain move to the right lower quadrant has been explained in medical textbooks forever, but unfortunately not every patient has read the book.