Acute Appendicitis

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Appendicitis Diagnosis

It’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis12 if you think you might have acute appendicitis. Depending on your healthcare provider and your unique situation, the diagnostic process may include:

  • Your health history and the history of this condition: Your healthcare provider will likely ask when your pain started, whether it has moved since it started, how bad it is, and whether you have had any other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or fever.
  • A physical exam: Your medical provider will likely apply gentle pressure to the area of the abdomen in which the appendix is located. Tenderness or pain are usually signs of problems with the appendix. In some cases of acute appendicitis, the pain will worsen after this pressure is released (rather than when it is applied). This can indicate inflammation of the peritoneum.

Your healthcare provider may also look for bloating, a stiff or rigid abdomen, or stiffening of the muscles in response to pressure (a physiological reflex that occurs in an attempt to protect the painful area).

  • A rectal exam and/or pelvic exam: If they suspect that lower intestinal issues may be causing your pain, your medical practitioner may use a lubricated instrument or gloved finger to examine your lower rectum. Female patients may need a pelvic exam to rule out problems in the reproductive system that could be causing their pain.
  • A blood test: When you have an infection, certain markers in your blood change. The most common indication of infection is an increased white blood cell count. Your medical practitioner may choose to perform a blood test to look for these markers.
  • A urine test: Urinary tract infections, kidney infections, kidney stones, and other problems in the urinary tract can cause severe abdominal pain. Your medical practitioner may take a sample of your urine and test it for signs of these conditions.
  • Imaging tests: A variety of imaging tests can be used to diagnose acute appendicitis. These include an abdominal X-ray, a CT scan, an MRI, and an abdominal ultrasound. Your healthcare provider may request just use one of these or may ask for a combination of tests before diagnosing you with acute appendicitis.

Once testing has been concluded, your healthcare provider will examine your results and determine the right diagnosis. This diagnosis will be used to begin the proper treatment plan to help relieve your pain and get you back to normal as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.