Q. I was reading a thread on the quad-list discussion group about a guy who is a C7 quad and had appendicitis and his appendix burst. He says he had to have major surgery, almost died, and spent a long time in the hospital.
Since then I’ve heard stories of this happening to a couple other people with SCI, both paras and quads. It kind of freaks me out.
I’m a C7 quad as well. Does being paralyzed make somebody more prone to appendicitis? If I did have appendicitis, how would I be able to tell?
A. Curt, I’ve also heard about a few people with SCI who have ended up in the ER with a burst appendix, and I’ve wondered the same thing — how can you tell if you have appendicitis?
The appendix is a narrow tubular pouch, attached to the large intestine, located on the lower right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis is inflammation and swelling of the appendix. Journal articles say that approximately 7 percent of people in the United States will develop appendicitis in their lifetime, and that the most common causes are obstruction from food waste, a hard piece of stool or infection. PubMed Health says appendicitis is one of the most common causes of emergency abdominal surgery. The first symptom is usually pain in the lower right abdomen. Other symptoms include reduced appetite, feeling nauseous and a low fever.
Appendicitis is a go-to-the-ER type of situation. If an inflamed appendix isn’t removed, it can burst and quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. A burst appendix can lead to peritonitis (infection of the lining of the abdomen) and sepsis (bacteria in the bloodstream).
Diedre Bricker, R.N., of Craig Hospital’s Nurse Advice Line, explains that having SCI doesn’t make a person more or less likely to get appendicitis than the general population, but reduced — or lack of — sensation makes diagnosing appendicitis in somebody with SCI much more complicated. To further complicate matters, usual symptoms of appendicitis are similar to many SCI-related complications, like UTIs.
“Abdominal pain is the most difficult thing we deal with when people call us,” Bricker says. “The decreased sensation that goes with SCI makes it very hard to help pinpoint what we are dealing with. Because the abdomen is where all of your organs are, the pain