Appendicitis is considered a rather serious medical condition especially in pregnant women. It represents inflammation of the appendix, a part of the gastrointestinal tract, to be more precise the colon. The appendix has no particular function and it can easily get inflamed. Appendicitis can affect people of all ages and it can also occur during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is suffering from appendicitis the doctor must be absolutely sure when confirming the diagnosis since the only treatment modality for this particular disease is surgical removal of the inflamed appendix.
Symptoms of Appendicitis in Pregnancy
Even though pregnant women may experience abdominal pain during pregnancy, the pain located in the the lower right abdomen may point to the presence of appendicitis. This pain usually starts suddenly (most commonly at night) and it can initially be located around the belly button and after certain period of time transfer to lower right part of the abdomen. If the appendix is pushed upwards with the uterus the pain can be located a bit higher. The pain is rather severe and it even tends to intensify either spontaneously or with certain activities such as taking deep breaths, coughing, sneezing etc. Additional symptoms are loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Diagnosing Appendicitis in Pregnancy
Diagnosing appendicitis in pregnancy can be rather challenging. The alteration of the body can cause displacement of the appendix and problems with precise localization of the pain during physical examination. Doctors usually first make differential diagnosis and then rule out other conditions. For example, appendicitis in pregnancy may resemble pyelonephritis and twisted ovarian cyst. Furthermore, pregnant women do feel nausea and they vomit during pregnancy. However, these symptoms tend to be more intensive in case of appendicitis.
A pregnant woman additionally undergoes blood tests and ultrasound of the abdomen. Patient's history and physical examination are the most important for setting of the definitive diagnosis.
Treatment for Appendicitis in Pregnancy
Appendicitis can be dangerous for both, a mother and a baby. Even though a woman is pregnant she must be surgically treated. It is essential to perform appendectomy as soon as possible and this way reduce the chance of certain complications associated with appendicitis such as rupture and peritonitis. The surgeon chooses the most suitable surgical approach. There are two surgical options- open surgery and laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic approach allows lesser narcotic use, appropriate visualization, not so intensive postoperative pain, quick return of bowel function and shorter hospitalization.
Apart from rupture and peritonitis one more complication of appendicitis during pregnancy is preterm delivery. However, this complication does not occur so often and is generally associated with some additional complication of appendicitis.