Appendicitis can be tricky to diagnose unless you have the typical symptoms, which are only present in about half of all cases.
Also, some people's appendixes may be located in a slightly different part of their body, such as:
- the pelvis
- behind the large intestine
- around the small bowel
- near the right lower part of the liver
Some people have pain similar to appendicitis, but it's caused by something else, such as:
- gastroenteritis - a stomach bug that can cause diarrhoea and vomiting
- severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- a bladder or urinary tract infection
Your GP will ask about your symptoms, examine your abdomen, and see if the pain gets worse when they press on the area around your appendix (the lower right-hand side of your abdomen).
If you have the typical symptoms of appendicitis, your GP will usually be able to make a confident diagnosis.
In this case, you'll immediately be referred to hospital for treatment.
If your symptoms are not typical, further tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions.
You may have:
- a blood test to look for signs of infection
- a pregnancy test for women
- a urine test to rule out other conditions, such as a bladder infection
- an ultrasound scan to see if the appendix is swollen
- a CT scan
It can sometimes take a while to get the test results.
Your surgeon may recommend a laparoscopy to examine your appendix and pelvic organs if the diagnosis is still uncertain.
Removing the appendix is usually recommended if appendicitis is suspected, rather than risk it bursting.
This means some people will have their appendix removed even though it's eventually found to be normal.
If a doctor is unsure whether you have appendicitis, they may recommend waiting up to 24 hours to see if your symptoms improve, stay the same or get worse.
If they suspect your appendix has burst, you'll be sent to hospital immediately for treatment.
Page last reviewed: 21 October 2022
Next review due: 21 October 2022