The main way a doctor diagnoses appendicitis is by listening to what has happened, and examining the person with the pain.
It can be hard to diagnose appendicitis, especially in a young child. Even in adults, it can be hard to tell the difference between appendicitis and conditions like ectopic pregnancies, bowel infections and bowel obstructions. The doctor may need to examine the person with the pain a number of times.
The doctor may also do scans (an ultrasound or CT scan) and blood tests to help make the diagnosis. These can help, but don’t give a definite answer.
Since appendicitis is potentially life threatening if left untreated, doctors will err on the side of caution and operate, even if there is no firm diagnosis.
If you think that you or someone in your care may have appendicitis, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as possible.
Last reviewed: November 2016