Appendix: Definition, Importance, and Related Health Issues

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- Updated by Sarah Qaiser
Medically reviewed by Dr Sidra Samad



The appendix is located on the first part of the large intestine, protruding from a pouch-like area known as the caecum. The appendix is worm-shaped with a diameter of approximately 7 to 8 mm and a length between 2 to 20 cm. The appendix is defined as an organ that most likely helps with the body's immune system. Previously, the importance of the appendix was not known. However, recent studies have shown that it's possible that the appendix houses good gut bacteria. The appendix would keep it safe to ensure that the bacterial health of the digestive tract stays in balance, especially after an illness. There are related health issues with the appendix, such as infection that can lead to appendicitis, which is when the appendix becomes inflamed. If untreated, appendicitis may lead to a ruptured appendix. Causes of appendicitis include hard pieces of stool, parasites, ingested objects, abdominal trauma, ulcers, and enlarged lymphatic tissue. Signs of a burst appendix include severe pain, fever, chills, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate. Appendicitis and a burst appendix are considered medical emergencies and should be treated immediately. 

What is an Appendix?

An appendix is an organ in the body shaped like a tube, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2023. It is located in the lower right part of the abdomen, attached to the beginning of the large intestine. The appendix can become inflamed, which is called appendicitis. Appendicitis can be caused when the appendix is filled with something from the large intestine, like mucus or parasites, that causes it to become inflamed. To understand what does your apendex do, it’s essential to keep in mind that the role of the appendix is currently unknown. There are theories that the appendix stores good bacteria, helping to repopulate the gut flora after a diarrheal illness.

What is the Function of an Appendix?

The function of a real appendix is currently unknown. As the whole digestive tract assists with the immune system, it’s theorized that the appendix may be used as a storage unit for the immune system, according to Hawai’i Pacific Health in 2019. The appendix function may involve storing good bacteria, allowing it to hide in the case of a severe illness or high level of antibiotics. The good bacteria would be able to hide, unaffected by the changes going on in the intestinal tract, and repopulate the gut flora with good bacteria after the illness has passed.

What is the medical term for the Appendix?

The medical term for the appendix is the vermiform appendix, which is still used in some medical and research circles but has since become outdated in everyday use. The word ‘vermiform’ in ‘vermiform appendix’ originates from Latin and means ‘worm-shaped.’ This word describes the appendix due to its thin, tubular, and ‘worm-like’ structure. To understand where is the appendix, it’s essential to keep in mind that the appendix is located on the large intestine, near the small intestine. Its exact attachment site on the large intestine is called the caecum, a pouch-like shape on the large intestine.

Where is the Appendix Found in the Body?

The appendix is found in the lower abdominal part of the body near where the large intestine turns into the small intestine, according to WebMD in 2019. The appendix is attached to the caecum, which is near the bottom of the first part of the large intestine. It sits near the beum, which is the medical term for the small intestine. The appendix function is unknown, but it’s hypothesized that it helps regulate the immune system by storing good bacteria.

How many Appendices Does the Body Have?

The body has 1 appendix, found attached to the large intestine. The appendix location is only in this place, projecting from the caecum at a length of around 9 centimeters. Removal of the appendix does not have any observable effects on the health of the body.

What is the Importance of the Appendix?

The importance of the appendix isn’t confirmed, but Science Daily, in 2017, suggests it is a store-house for beneficial gut bacteria. Good bacteria in the gut can help prevent diseases and improve a person's overall health. The appendix safeguards these beneficial bacteria in the case of an illness that overloads the digestive system. The appendix is also lined with lymphatic tissue, drawing the notion that the appendix is a type of secondary immune organ. Healthy gut bacteria can be encouraged to grow via lymphatic tissue, further pointing to the idea that the appendix is a safe house for good gut bacteria. This can help us understand what does the appendix do.

What does the Appendix look like?

The appendix is a small, worm or tube-like organ that is attached to the first part of the large intestine. The pendix body part is made of intestinal tissue ranging in length between 2 and 20 cm, with a diameter between 7 and 8 mm.

What are the Potential Health Issues Involving the Appendix?

A few potential health issues regarding the appendix are listed below, which can help us understand what is the appendix for.

  1. Hard pieces of stool - Hard pieces of stool can block the entrance to the appendix, causing infection.
  2. Parasites or intestinal worms - Parasites Can enter or block the appendix, which can lead to appendicitis. 
  3. Ingested objects - Ingested objects can block the appendix, which could result in an inflamed and enlarged appendix.
  4. Abdominal trauma - Abdominal trauma, like a cut, blunt force, or severe wound, may cause complications to the appendix, like an infection.
  5. GI tract ulcers - GI tract ulcers seem to be a risk factor for developing appendicitis. 
  6. Enlarged appendix lymphatic tissue - Enlarged appendix lymphatic tissue is typically an indicator of a tumor, infection, or blockage, causing the lymph nodes in the appendix to become inflamed, which can lead to appendicitis.

1. Hard pieces of stool

Hard pieces of stool can block or enter the appendix, causing infection and inflammation. If a hard piece of stool obstructs the opening, it may cause appendicitis, which is inflammation of the appendix. The appendix must have its opening free and unrestricted to function, and having it blocked severely hampers what does your appendix do.

2. Parasites or intestinal worms

Parasites or intestinal worms are a potential risk as the appendix is situated right on the edge of the large intestine. Due to where is the appendix located, it’s fairly easy for parasites or worms to accidentally enter the appendix. This can cause a blockage or cause an infection. This obstruction can then lead to appendicitis. 

3. Ingested objects, including air gun pellets and pins

Ingested objects, like air gun pellets, can cause complications to the appendix by blocking the entrance. This limits the function of appendix, and can cause inflammation and swelling, which can lead to appendicitis. 

4. Abdominal trauma

Abdominal trauma, like blunt force, can cause internal bleeding, which can spread to other organs and cause infection, like the appendix. This is due to where is your appendix located, as it is in close proximity to the intestines on the lower right side of the body. This infection can then lead to complications, like an inflamed appendix. 

5. GI tract ulcers

GI tract ulcers seem to be a risk factor for developing appendicitis. This is due to the ulcer having the ability, in rare instances, to create a hole in the digestive tract. This hole from the ulcer can allow foreign material in, which can cause infection and inflammation of the entire digestive tract, including the appendix. This helps us understand if the apendice real, and what the appendix’s role is in the body. 

6. Enlarged appendix lymphatic tissue

Enlarged appendix lymphatic tissue is not usually a concern for the appendix. However, in rare cases, enlarged lymphatic tissue can indicate an underlying health issue. Severe inflammation is a symptom of appendicitis, which could be the reason behind the enlarged lymphatic tissue. Understanding your appendix as an immune system organ is essential to keep in mind when considering what is ur appendix. 

What Happens When the Appendix Bursts?

When the appendix bursts, your abdominal cavity becomes lined with bacteria due to the ruptured appendix, according to the NHS in 2022. A ruptured appendix’s effect on the body is also known as peritonitis and is considered a medical emergency. This is because peritonitis can cause rapid infection throughout the abdomen and needs immediate surgical removal of any infected sites. Common signs of a ruptured appendix include severe pain in the abdominal area, fever, chills, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. These signs give insight into what's the appendix and the role it plays in the body’s health.

What Triggers an Appendix?

The triggering of an appendix is typically referred to as appendicitis, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2023. The appendix purpose is likely to help with the immune system, but it can be disturbed if it becomes blocked. Infections from bacteria or parasites can also trigger the appendix. In rare instances, tumors can also cause a blockage, leading to appendicitis. 

During appendicitis, blood flow stops, and the appendix begins to die. This leads to holes or tears in the walls of the appendix, which can then allow an abdomen-wide infection to develop.

Is an Appendix an Organ?

Yes, the appendix is an organ considered to possibly be involved with immunological responses and protecting the body from infection. At first, researchers thought the appendix did not have a function, but recent research shows, according to News Medical in 2019, that the appendix is a part of the body’s immune system. This thought is largely based on the lymphoid cells in the appendix and where is appendix in relation to the rest of the digestive tract and its immune system functions.

Is it Possible to Survive Without an Appendix?

Yes, it is possible to survive without an appendix, according to Mount Sinai in 2023. Living without the appendix after surgical removal has no known health complications, and people continue to live normal lives without an appendix. 

Is the Appendix part of the digestive system?

Yes, the appendix is a part of the digestive system, attached to the caecum of the large intestine. The purpose of appendix and what the appendix does may be more closely related to the immune systems within the digestive tract than food processing. The appendix is suggested to house good bacteria, which can be released into the digestive system to maintain the balance of bacterial health.