IBD: Role of Appendectomy

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

The appendix’s role in IBD has been debated for years. Recent research is shedding additional light on this organ’s relationship to this painful bowel disease.

A 2016 study published in Gut_, _finds that an appendectomy was a risk factor for colectomy (removal of the colon), with an even stronger relationship when the surgery was performed after a diagnosis of UC.

What is the appendix?

The appendix is a worm-shaped organ that projects from the colon on the lower right side of the abdomen. While researchers are not clear on the exact function of the appendix, the theory is that its function is to help house healthy bacteria for the gut.

Why is the appendix removed?

Appendectomy, the removal of the appendix, is the most common emergency surgery in the United States. The procedure is done when the organ becomes infected and inflamed, what’s known as appendicitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, appendicitis most frequently occurs in people age 10- to 30-years old, but can occur at any age.

Symptoms of appendicitis include: abdominal pain (most frequently on the lower right side), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, fever, abdominal bloating and pain that worsens if you move or cough.

What does this mean for IBD patients?

Unfortunately, most appendectomies are unavoidable. However, there have been some instances in which the appendix is removed in an elective surgery to better the course of a patient’s IBD. The researchers at Johns Hopkins concluded that this practice should be questioned in light of this new research. Should an appendectomy be suggested -- in the absence of appendicitis -- it is important to get a second opinion.

**If you have had an appendectomy in the past, be sure that your current GI knows. That information will be put together with your current history to evaluate the risk of colectomy.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.