The appendix is a small, finger-like appendage attached to the cecum just below the ileocecal valve. Because it empties into the colon inefficiently and its lumen is small, it is prone to becoming obstructed and is vulnerable to infection (appendicitis). The obstructed appendix becomes inflamed and edematous and eventually fills with pus. It is the most common cause of acute inflammation in the right lower quadrant of the abdominal cavity and the most common cause of emergency abdominal surgery. Although it can occur at any age, it more commonly occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years.
•Lower right quadrant pain usually accompanied by lowgrade fever, nausea, and sometimes vomiting; loss of appetite is common; constipation can occur.
•At McBurney’s point (located halfway between the umbilicus and the anterior spine of the ilium), local tenderness with pressure and some rigidity of the lower portion of the right rectus muscle.
•Rebound tenderness may be present; location of appendix dictates amount of tenderness, muscle spasm, and occurrence of constipation or diarrhea. •Rovsing’s sign (elicited by palpating left lower quadrant, which paradoxically causes pain in right lower quadrant). •If appendix ruptures, pain becomes more diffuse; abdominal distention develops from paralytic ileus, and condition worsens.
Assessment and Diagnostic Findings
•Diagnosis is based on a complete physical examination and laboratory and imaging tests.
•Elevated WBC count with an elevation of the neutrophils; abdominal radiographs, ultrasound studies, and CT scans may reveal right lower quadrant density or localized distention of the bowel.
In the elderly, signs and symptoms of appendicitis may vary greatly. Signs may be very vague and suggestive of bowel obstruction or another process; some patients may experience no symptoms until the appendix ruptures. The incidence of perforated appendix is higher in the elderly because many of these people do not seek health care as quickly as younger people.
•Surgery (conventional or laparoscopic) is indicated if appendicitis is diagnosed and should be performed as soon as possible to decrease risk of perforation.
•Administer antibiotics and IV fluids until surgery is performed.
•Analgesic agents can be given after diagnosis is made.
Complications of Appendectomy
•The major complication is perforation of the appendix, which can lead to peritonitis, abscess formation (collection of purulent material), or portal pylephlebitis. •Perforation generally occurs 24 hours after the onset of pain. Symptoms include a fever of 37.7C (100F) or greater, a toxic appearance, and continued abdominal pain or tenderness.
•Nursing goals include relieving pain, preventing fluid volume deficit, reducing anxiety, eliminating infection due to the potential or actual disruption of the GI tract, maintaining skin integrity, and attaining optimal nutrition.
•Preoperatively, prepare patient for surgery, start IV line, administer antibiotic, and insert nasogastric tube (if evidence of paralytic ileus). Do not administer an enema or laxative (could cause perforation). •Postoperatively, place patient in high Fowler’s position, give narcotic analgesic as ordered, administer oral fluids when tolerated, give food as desired on day of surgery (if tolerated). If dehydrated before surgery, administer IV fluids.
•If a drain is left in place at the area of the incision, monitor carefully for signs of intestinal obstruction, secondary hemorrhage, or secondary abscesses (eg, fever, tachycardia, and increased leukocyte count). Promoting Home- and Community-Based Care Teaching Patients Self-Care •Teach patient and family to care for the wound and perform dressing changes and irrigations as prescribed.
•Reinforce need for follow-up appointment with surgeon.
•Discuss incision care and activity guidelines.
•Refer for home care nursing as indicated to assist with care and continued monitoring of complications and wound healing.
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