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Appendix Functions, Facts, Location and Pictures

Literally speaking, an appendix is something added on to something else as an appendage. Are you really confused? Have you seen the appendix in the books? The appendix of a book is a collection of specific pages, containing additional information, in the end of the book, which is added to the regular pages. In human body too, there is an added structure, called appendix that is attached to the cecum of colon. Being very small and shaped like a worm, it is also known as "Vermiform Appendix" or simply "Vermix" which comes from Latin meaning "worm-shaped". Resembling a small, hollow, finger-like tube, vermix is blind at one end while the other end opens into cecum of large bowel (or colon). On average, the length is about 11 centimeter, but it varies greatly from an individual to the other, and can enlarge up to 20 cm. As the free end is no opening, anything entering into it will get trapped with no way to come out of it. The stagnation of food will cause inflammation of the organ accompanied by severe pain which can only be treated with its immediate surgical removal, or else the victim may die.

Appendix

Functions of appendix

The contribution of appendix is not so important in the breakdown or absorption of dietary particles, but medical researchers, such as Loren G. Mortin, have found vermix to be playing significant role both in fetuses and adult humans. In the fetuses of eleven week old, endocrine cells, present there, assist in biological control mechanisms (such as, homeostasis), while in adults, it mainly acts as a lymphatic organ. Most recently, a number of experiments have verified that it helps the immune system fight against microbes and other disease causing agents by killing or neutralizing them. Moreover, it has also been found to act as an organ of transplant for the construction of a functional bladder and rebuilding a sphincter muscle into the urinary tract.

Vermix—A Functional Organ in Herbivores

Certain herbivores have a number of such structures attached to their intestinal canal assisting digestion in much like the same way as it once did in the herbivore humans. In Koala Bear, a mammal that eats the leaves of eucalyptus, appendix is still functional and is used for breaking down the chemicals of the vegetation that they consume. In the digestive system of these animals, a large number of bacteria are there to help the digestive processes of complex plant materials. Among many types of bacteria, some are harmful and cause many infectious diseases, while the others are friendly and create many useful compounds in the body. If they lose these good bacteria which help in the digestive process, they may have to face many health issues. So in order to house such bacteria in the digestive system, appendix is used.

Appendix was in need

Thousands of years ago, humans in the hunter-gatherer times were eating a wide variety of vegetation. So the appendix was used for breaking down the specific chemicals of the leaves and complex plant materials. But its function was greatly reduced as pre-human animals evolved to become omnivores and replaced raw vegetables with meat, fruits and other food items. With the passage of time, the functions of the appendix in food digestion have almost decreased to none, i.e. appendix has no particular use for the human digestive system, but it plays significant role in the immune, lymphatic and endocrine systems. However, if it is surgically removed from our body, there will be no substantial adverse effects on the functioning of digestion or other mechanisms.

Location of Appendix

It is located at the junction where small and large intestines join each other, i.e. in the right lower abdominal quadrant, which is between the top section of the pelvic bone and the navel area. Normally, we cannot determine the exact location of the appendix and even in the scanned image, it is not clearly visible. The vermix can be located in the specified abdominal chamber, when the visceral organs in human body are at their normal positions, and such a condition is generally referred to as situs solitus. There is a congenital condition (known as situs oppositus) in which the internal organs are delocalized or reversed. So, in the rare cases of situs inversus, this vestigial organ is found on the opposite side of the body.

Disease of appendix

A well-known disease of appendix is appendicitis, in which some particles of food, passing through the gastrointestinal canal, get an accidental entry into this hollow, blind-ended structure, but there is no way for the trapped food to come out of it. Thus, the stagnation of organic material produces pus and toxic substances leading to severe inflammation. If the condition is not addressed timely, the swollen tube bursts open and releases its harmful contents to the sensitive internal organs, and may even cause the death of the victim.

Symptoms

At an early stage it may start like an ordinary stomach pain, but later on you may also suffer from fever and vomiting. Your stomach will hurt when you touch it and it will become sore, swollen and tender. If this happens, you have to go to a doctor immediately. Any negligence may prove to be very drastic and claim your life.

Treatment

Sometimes, the appendicitis can be cured through medication, but in many cases, immediate surgical removal becomes quite inevitable. Surgery to remove the appendix is called as an appendectomy. If the surgery is not done at a right time, then the infected appendix will burst and it will spread the infections in the abdominal chamber. So it is advised to remove the infected appendix as soon as possible. The surgery is very simple and within a few days, the patient can walk. The appendix does not give any benefits to the humans and it is proved by the fact that people who have removed their appendix are healthy. So, you need not worry about the loosing this part of your body, and if it is eliminated earlier (for example, at the time of birth), it can save you from unbearable future complexities. However, the most recent research in the field doesn’t suggest its early removal because it can serve as a spare transplant organ at the time of need.