Doctors have for long baffled by what triggers appendicitis. Now, a new study has claimed that the condition may be caused by a flu-like virus and it may not require an emergency surgery.

An international team believes that a link to viral infection could explain why appendicitis appears to be more common in certain years and during the summer, but it has not been able to identify the mystery virus.

Appendicitis affects about one in 10 people during their lifetime and is the most common reason for emergency surgery. It occurs when the appendix, a worm-like cul-de-sac attached to the large intestine, becomes inflamed.

In their study, scientists examined American hospital admissions for appendicitis, influenza and gastric viral infections over 36 years.

Their analysis showed appendicitis peaked in the years 1977, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1994 and 1998. That clustering pattern suggested outbreaks were typical of viral infections. Seasonal trends were also uncovered showing a bit increase in number of appendicitis cases over the summer months.

“The peaks and valleys of appendicitis cases generally matched up over time suggesting it’s possible these disorders share common etiologic (causative) determinates, pathogenetic (disease-related) mechanisms or environmental factors that similarly affect their incidence.

“Though appendicitis is fairly common it still remains a frustrating medical mystery,” the British media quoted team leader Edward Livingston of Texas University as saying.

In fact, in their study, the scientists looked at cases of sailors at sea without access to medical facilities and children who could not safely have surgery. And, in many instances, their nonperforated appendicitis resolved itself.

“Just as the traditional appendix scar across the abdomen is fast becoming history, thanks to new single— incision surgery techniques, so too may the conventional wisdom that patients with appendicitis need to be operated on as soon as they enter the hospital.

“Patients still need to be seen quickly by physician, but emergency surgery is now in question,” Dr Livingston wrote in the latest edition of the ‘Archives of Surgery’ journal.

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