Anatomy And Physiology

Appendix



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The human appendix serves no purpose. At least that is what we have been told by the medical community as far back as I can remember. If it causes a problem, have it surgically removed. You'll never miss it. So, just like approximately 1 in 20 of my fellow humans, I did. They were right, I haven't missed it.

Now they are telling us there is a possibility that the slimy little worm-like sac dangling off the right end of our colon might, indeed, have a significant impact on our overall health. Who would have guessed? Being an extraordinarily healthy person, I can't help but wonder how my overall health would have been improved had my appendix not been removed when I was seven years old.

Charles Darwin considered it a vestigial organ, a remnant of an organ that we no longer need because of evolution. His theory was that we were once leaf eaters, and the appendix was a much larger organ that helped in the digestion of the leaves. Down through the years others have echoed his idea, seeing the appendix as a useless nuisance that can, and often does, pose a threat to ones life.

When the appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus, a condition called appendicitis, it is no laughing matter. It is, in fact, extremely painful and life threatening. Anyone can suffer from appendicitis but it commonly occurs between the ages of 10 to 30. Characinoid tumors also cause problems with the appendix. Although they develop in the appendix, they can spread to other parts of the body.

Not all that long ago a troublesome appendix was commonly considered as good as gone. Why suffer with something when the solution was so readily apparent? But now we must ask ourselves, What if we were wrong? Is the appendix worth saving?

In the past, studies have proven that the appendix is active in the development of white blood cells. More recently some have suggested it is a storage place for good bacteria. This sounds like an organ that is very useful to the body. Perhaps in this day and time doctors can utilize it in fighting diseases and maintaining good health.

What does this mean for the future of the appendix? What procedure will replace "you don't really need it , so let's just remove it"? I visualize a round of anti-inflammatory medication in cases of appendicitis, with surgery reserved for characinoid tumors.

For the moment, it would seem that the appendix has gained long overdue recognition. Only time will tell if it is truly deserving.

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