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Delayed Diagnosis of Appendicitis

Delayed Diagnosis of Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a common condition, with around 7% of people in the UK experiencing it at some point in their life. Although the cause of appendicitis is not fully understood, it is certain that treatment must be given straight away. The patient is therefore dependent upon medical professionals making a swift diagnosis, as a delay could lead to serious complications.

Symptoms of Appendicitis

Appendicitis is when the appendix (a small pouch at the end of the colon) becomes filled with bacteria which produce pus. This in turn causes the appendix to swell, causing someone to experience symptoms such as:-

  • Pain in the abdomen, particularly on the lower right side;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • High temperature;
  • Diahorrea.

Someone experiencing the above symptoms, in particular abdominal pain that quickly becomes increasingly severe, should seek medical assistance straight away. This is because appendicitis can develop very rapidly, with a patient's condition becoming progressively worse within a matter of hours.

Diagnosing Appendicitis

As a medical emergency, appendicitis needs to be treated as soon as possible. Unfortunately, however, there is often a delay as appendicitis is not easily diagnosed. The symptoms are very similar to other less serious conditions, and it is commonly mistaken for a urinary tract infection or gastroenteritis.

To ensure the correct diagnosis is made, a medical professional should begin by examining the abdomen, taking note to see whether the pain increases when pressure is applied to the appendix. If so, and there are additional symptoms characteristic of appendicitis, then this should be enough for a certain diagnosis to be made.

However, a patient with appendicitis will not always present with typical symptoms. In this case, further tests can be done, including blood tests, urine tests, an MRI scan or a CT scan. Once appendicitis is confirmed, a patient should undergo emergency surgery to remove the appendix known as an 'appendectomy'.

Delayed Diagnosis of Appendicitis and Possible Complications

If there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment is not given in a promptly fashion, then a patient's condition will deteriorate very quickly. This can result in serious complications, including:-

  • A perforated appendix (where the appendix bursts);
  • Peritonitis (when the infection spreads to the inner lining of the abdomen);
  • An abscess (a collection of pus in the abdomen);
  • Sepsis of the blood.

Sadly in some cases a delay in diagnosis can cause a patient to become so unwell that they are unable to recover, resulting in fatal complications.

Delay in Diagnosing Appendicitis and Medical Negligence

Medical professionals should be aware of the symptoms of appendicitis and the dangers of a delay in treatment. Therefore if there are not reasonable steps taken to confirm whether or not appendicitis is present and a patient suffers as a result, then there may be a case of medical negligence.

If this has happened to you, a medical negligence solicitor will be able to discuss the details of the incident with you. If it is found that the care you received from medical staff fell below the accepted standard, you could claim compensation for your suffering.

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