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What Are the Different Types of Appendicitis Tests?

By H. Lo
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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There are a variety of tests to diagnose appendicitis, a medical condition in which an individual has an inflamed appendix. Different types of appendicitis tests include physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging tests. In addition to these appendicitis tests, disclosure of medical history or symptoms can also help with diagnosis.

A physical examination can help in assessing pain and tenderness associated with appendicitis. For example, when an individual has appendicitis, he will feel pain in his lower right abdomen. The doctor can apply pressure to this area, and upon sudden release of the pressure, the patient will feel pain due to rebound tenderness.

Also, guarding usually appears in an individual with appendicitis. Guarding is the act of stiffening the abdominal muscles due to pressure. This act is subconscious and can occur before or after the doctor actually touches the area.

Other physical appendicitis tests that help in evaluating pain include those that check for obturator sign, psoas sign and Rovsing’s sign. These are various tests that when performed, cause abdominal pain due to movement or pressure from another area of the body. The presence of these signs can be indicators of appendicitis.

A physical examination might also include a rectal examination which can reveal tenderness due to appendicitis. Also, a woman might undergo a pelvic examination to eliminate any gynecological conditions as the cause of abdominal pain. This is because some of these conditions can produce symptoms similar to appendicitis.

In addition to a physical examination, laboratory tests can also diagnose appendicitis. Examples of laboratory tests include blood and urine tests. A blood test measures the patient’s white blood cell count; a high count is an indicator of an infection. A urine test can determine if the patient’s pain is not from appendicitis, but rather, a result of a kidney stone, or a urinary tract infection.

Usually, a physical examination and laboratory tests can be enough to diagnose appendicitis, but imaging tests can help confirm the diagnosis. Examples of imaging tests that are helpful include a computerized tomography (CT) scan and an ultrasound. An x-ray might also be useful, but is more valuable in ascertaining other causes of abdominal pain than diagnosing an inflamed appendix.

Alongside different appendicitis tests, medical history can help the doctor with diagnosis. As there are many causes of abdominal pain, knowledge of a patient’s medical history helps the doctor eliminate other possible medical conditions. In addition, like diagnosis of any other illness, symptoms, if any, also play a role in diagnosis. Major symptoms associated with appendicitis include abdominal pain that moves from the naval to the lower right abdomen, becomes sharper as time goes on, and worsens when making harsh movements.

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