The Human Body

Appendix

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Appendix, a worm-shaped tube branching off the cecum, the first part of the large intestine. It is located on the lower right side of the abdomen and is usually about 9 cm (about 3.5 in) long, with a thick wall. Only humans and apes have an appendix. It has no known function in human biology, but it does contain a large amount of lymphoid tissue, which may provide a defense against local infection. Many scientists believe that the human appendix at one time served a useful purpose that has gradually been lost through evolution.

For reasons not fully understood, the appendix can become infected and filled with pus—particularly in children, teenagers, and young adults—resulting in appendicitis. Symptoms of appendicitis include pain and cramps in the area between the right hip bone and the navel, fever, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. The treatment is surgical removal of the appendix, known as appendectomy. If the appendix wall ruptures, infection may spread to the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdominal lining. Acute peritonitis is often fatal if untreated.