Recently, I had a patient who had undergone a hysterectomy and while the surgeon was in there he removed her appendix to eliminate the chance that she might have an appendicitis.
Ever since man began dissecting human bodies, they have been puzzled as to what purpose if any the appendix has. Charles Darwin felt that the appendix was a useless biological remnant, the remains of a larger structure called the cecum, which was used by our predecessors for digestion.
New research out of Duke University Medical Center indicates that this small organ provides a safe haven where good bacteria can reside until they are needed to repopulate the gut after say a bout of diarrhea.
Another study from Sweden looked at the long term health effects of routine appendectomy. What they found was that surgical removal of the appendix before the age of 20 was associated with a 33% increased risk of premature heart attack.
The appendix is a lymphoid organ and thus a component of the body’s immune system. Behind the study lay evidence that removal was associated with moderate long-term effects on the immune system and alterations in risk for some auto-immune disorders.
Like Darwin many doctors feel that the appendix is of no value to the body. Studies like this one helps to shed some light on just how important every single organ is.
Terry Pfau DO, HMD