The main way a doctor diagnoses appendicitis is by talking about 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. Sometimes the doctor may recommend an operation to check the appendix even if they are not certain it is inflamed.
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.
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Last reviewed: September 2018