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Appendix (anatomy)

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For other uses, see Appendix (disambiguation).


Drawing of colon with variability of appendix as seen from front

Arteries of cecum and appendix (appendix labeled as vermiform

process at lower right)


Precursor Midgut
System Digestive system

Artery Appendicular artery

Vein Appendicular vein


Latin Appendix vermiformis

MeSH D001065

TA A05.7.02.007

FMA 14542

Anatomical terminology

[edit on Wikidata]

Ileocecal junction (appendix appears in blue)

The appendix (or vermiform appendix; also cecal [or caecal] appendix; vermix; or vermiform
process) is a finger-like, blind-ended tube connected to the cecum, from which it develops in the
embryo. The cecum is a pouchlike structure of the colon, located at the junction of the small and
the large intestines.
The term "vermiform" comes from Latin and means "worm-shaped."
The appendix has been called a vestigial organ.


 1Structure

o 1.1Variation
 2Functions

o 2.1Maintaining gut flora

o 2.2Immune and lymphatic system

o 2.3Vestigiality

 3Clinical significance

o 3.1Appendicitis

o 3.2Surgery

 4History

 5Additional images

 6See also

 7References

 8Further reading


Abdominal ultrasound showing a normal appendix between the external iliac artery and the abdominal wall

The human appendix averages 9 cm in length but can range from 2 to 20 cm. The diameter of the
appendix is usually between 7 and 8 mm. The longest appendix ever removed was 26 cm long.
The appendix is usually located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, near the right hip
bone. The base of the appendix is located 2 cm beneath the ileocecal valve that separates the large
intestine from the small intestine. Its position within the abdomen corresponds to a point on the
surface known as McBurney's point.
The appendix is connected to the mesentery in the lower region of the ileum, by a short region of
the mesocolon known as the mesoappendix.[2]
Some identical twins—known as mirror image twins—can have a mirror-imaged anatomy,
a congenital condition with the appendix located in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen.[3]
Intestinal malrotation may also cause displacement of the appendix to the left side.
While the base of the appendix is typically located 2 cm below the ileocecal valve, the tip of the
appendix can be variably located—in the pelvis, outside the peritoneum or behind the cecum.[5] The
prevalence of the different positions varies amongst populations with the retrocecal position being
most common in Ghana and Sudan, with 67.3% and 58.3% occurrence respectively, in comparison
to Iran and Bosnia where the pelvic position is most common, with 55.8% and 57.7% occurrence
In very rare cases, the appendix may not be present at all (laparotomies for suspected appendicitis
have given a frequency of 1 in 100,000).[10]
Sometimes there is a semi-circular fold of mucous membrane at the opening of the appendix.
This valve of the vermiform appendix is also called Gerlach's valve.[2]

Maintaining gut flora[edit]

A possible function of the human appendix is a "safe house" for beneficial bacteria in the recovery
from diarrhea.

Although it has been long accepted that the immune tissue surrounding the appendix and elsewhere
in the gut—called gut-associated lymphoid tissue—carries out a number of important functions,
explanations were lacking for the distinctive shape of the appendix and its apparent lack of specific
importance and function as judged by an absence of side effects following its removal.[11] Therefore,
the notion that the appendix is only vestigial became widely held.
William Parker, Randy Bollinger, and colleagues at Duke University proposed in 2007 that the
appendix serves as a haven for useful bacteriawhen illness flushes the bacteria from the rest of the
intestines.[12][13] This proposition is based on an understanding that emerged by the early 2000s of
how the immune system supports the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria,[14][15] in combination with
many well-known features of the appendix, including its architecture, its location just below the
normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine, and its association with copious
amounts of immune tissue. Research performed at Winthrop–University Hospital showed that
individuals without an appendix were four times more likely to have a recurrence of Clostridium
difficile colitis.[16] The appendix, therefore, may act as a "safe house" for beneficial bacteria. [12] This
reservoir of bacteria could then serve to repopulate the gut flora in the digestive system following a
bout of dysentery or cholera or to boost it following a milder gastrointestinal illness.[13]
Immune and lymphatic system[edit]
The appendix has been identified as an important component of mammalian mucosal immune
function, particularly B cell-mediated immune responses and extrathymically derived T cells. This
structure helps in the proper movement and removal of waste matter in the digestive system,
contains lymphatic vessels that regulate pathogens, and lastly, might even produce early defences
that prevent deadly diseases. Additionally, it is thought that this may provide more immune defences
from invading pathogens and getting the lymphatic system's B and T cells to fight the viruses and
bacteria that infect that portion of the bowel and training them so that immune responses are
targeted and more able to reliably and less dangerously fight off pathogens. [17] In addition, there are
different immune cells called innate lymphoid cells that function in the gut in order to help the
appendix maintain digestive health.[18][19]
The human appendix had been proposed to be a vestigial structure, a structure that has lost all or
most of its original function or that has evolved to take on a new function. The suggestion was that it
is the shrunken remnant of the cecum thought to have been present in a remote ancestor of
humans. This notion is still widely held. A 2013 study, however, refutes the idea of an inverse
relationship between cecum size and appendix size and presence. [20] Ceca, which occur in the
digestive tracts of many herbivores (e.g., ox, horse), house mutualistic bacteria and ingested small
stones that help animals digest the cellulose molecules found in plants. [21]
It is widely present in euarchontoglires (a superorder of mammals that includes rodents and
primates), has also evolved independently in the diprotodont marsupials and monotremesand is
highly diverse in size and shape.[20][22]
A possible scenario for the progression from a fully functional cecum to the current human appendix
was put forth by Charles Darwin. He suggested that the appendix was used for digesting leaves
as primates. It may be a vestigial organ of ancient humans that has degraded to nearly nothing of its
original purpose or evolved to take on a new purpose over the course of evolution. The very long
cecum of some herbivorous animals, such as in the horse or the koala, appears to support this
theory. The koala's cecum enables it to host bacteria that specifically help to break down cellulose.
Human ancestors may have also relied upon this system when they lived on a diet rich in foliage. As
people began to eat more easily digested foods, they may have become less reliant on cellulose-rich
plants for energy. As the cecum became less necessary for digestion, mutations that were previously
deleterious (and would have hindered evolutionary progress) were no longer important, so the
mutations survived. It is suggested that these alleles became more frequent and the cecum
continued to shrink. After millions of years, the once-necessary cecum degraded to be the appendix
of modern humans.[23]

Clinical significance[edit]

An appendiceal carcinoid tumor

The most common diseases of the appendix (in humans) are appendicitis and carcinoid tumors
(appendiceal carcinoid).[24] Appendix canceraccounts for about 1 in 200 of all gastrointestinal
malignancies. In rare cases, adenomas are also present.[25]
Main article: Appendicitis
Appendicitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the appendix. Pain often begins in the
center of the abdomen, corresponding to the appendix's development as part of the
embryonic midgut. This pain is typically a dull, poorly localized, visceral pain.[26]
As the inflammation progresses, the pain begins to localize more clearly to the right lower quadrant,
as the peritoneum becomes inflamed. This peritoneal inflammation, or peritonitis, results in rebound
tenderness (pain upon removal of pressure rather than application of pressure). In particular, it
presents at McBurney's point, 1/3 of the way along a line drawn from the anterior superior iliac
spine to the umbilicus. Typically, point (skin) pain is not present until the parietal peritoneum is
inflamed, as well. Fever and an immune system response are also characteristic of appendicitis. [26]
Appendicitis usually requires the removal of the inflamed appendix, in an appendectomy either
by laparotomy or laparoscopy. Untreated, the appendix may rupture, leading to peritonitis, followed
by shock, and, if still untreated, death.[26]
Main article: Appendectomy
The surgical removal of the appendix is called an appendectomy. This removal is normally
performed as an emergency procedure when the patient is suffering from acuteappendicitis. In the
absence of surgical facilities, intravenous antibiotics are used to delay or avoid the onset of sepsis.
In some cases, the appendicitis resolves completely; more often, an inflammatory mass forms
around the appendix. This is a relative contraindication to surgery.
The appendix is also used for the construction of an efferent urinary conduit, in an operation known
as the Mitrofanoff procedure,[27] in people with a neurogenic bladder.
The appendix is also used as a means to access the colon in children with paralysed bowels or
major rectal sphincter problems. The appendix is brought out to the skin surface and the child/parent
can then attach a catheter and easily wash out the colon (via normal defaecation) using an
appropriate solution.[28]

Dr. Heather F. Smith of Midwestern University and colleagues explained:
Recently ... improved understanding of gut immunity has merged with current thinking in biological
and medical science, pointing to an apparent function of the mammalian cecal appendix as a safe-
house for symbiotic gut microbes, preserving the flora during times of gastrointestinal infection in
societies without modern medicine. This function is potentially a selective force for the evolution and
maintenance of the appendix. Three morphotypes of cecal-appendices can be described among
mammals based primarily on the shape of the cecum: a distinct appendix branching from a rounded
or sac-like cecum (as in many primate species), an appendix located at the apex of a long and
voluminous cecum (as in the rabbit, greater glider and Cape dune mole rat), and an appendix in the
absence of a pronounced cecum (as in the wombat). In addition, long narrow appendix-like
structures are found in mammals that either lack an apparent cecum (as in monotremes) or lack a
distinct junction between the cecum and appendix-like structure (as in the koala). A cecal appendix
has evolved independently at least twice, and apparently represents yet another example of
convergence in morphology between Australian marsupials and placentals in the rest of the world.
Although the appendix has apparently been lost by numerous species, it has also been maintained
for more than 80 million years in at least one clade.[22]
In a more recent paper, the appendix was found to have evolved at least 32 times (and perhaps as
many as 38 times) and to have been lost no more than six times. [20] This suggests that the cecal
appendix has a selective advantage in many situations and argues strongly against its vestigial
nature. This complex evolutionary history of the appendix, along with a great heterogeneity in its
evolutionary rate in various taxa, suggests that it is a recurrent trait.[29]
Such a function may be useful in a culture lacking modern sanitation and healthcare practice,
where diarrhea may be prevalent. Current epidemiological data on the cause of death in developed
countries collected by the World Health Organization in 2001 show that acute diarrhea is now the
fourth leading cause of disease-related death in developing countries (data summarized by The Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation). Two of the other leading causes of death are expected to have
exerted limited or no selection pressure.[30]

Additional images[edit]

Illustration depicting the location of the appendix in a child

Normal location of the appendix relative to other organs of the digestive

system (frontal view)

Vermiform appendix

Ileo-cecal valve and vermiform appendix

Mucinous adenocarcinoma of the appendix tip

Cross section of the appendix with Enterobius with H&E stain

Histology of vermiform appendix

See also[edit]
 Meckel's diverticulum

1. ^ "Largest appendix removed". Guinness World Records.
Retrieved 22 May 2017.

2. ^ Jump up to: Golalipour, M.J.; Arya, B.; Jahanshahi, M.; Azarhoosh,

a b

R. (2003). "Anatomical Variations Of Vermiform Appendix In South-

East Caspian Sea (Gorgan-IRAN)" (PDF). J. Anat. Soc. India.
Retrieved 1 October 2014.[permanent dead link]

3. ^ "Unusual Types of Twins". Multiples of America. Retrieved 30

April 2014.

4. ^ Gedda L, Sciacca A, Brenci G, et al. (1984). "Situs viscerum

specularis in monozygotic twins". Acta Genet Med Gemellol
(Roma). 33 (1): 81–5. PMID 6540028.

5. ^ Paterson-Brown, S. (2007). "15. The acute abdomen and intestinal

obstruction". In Parks, Rowan W.; Garden, O. James; Carter, David
John; Bradbury, Andrew W.; Forsythe, John L. R. Principles and
practice of surgery (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 0-

6. ^ Clegg-Lamptey JN, Armah H, Naaeder SB, Adu-Aryee NA (2006).

"Position and susceptibility to inflammation of vermiform appendix in
Accra, Ghana". East Afr Med J. 83(12): 670–3. PMID 17685212.

7. ^ Bakheit MA, Warille AA (1999). "Anomalies of the vermiform

appendix and prevalence of acute appendicitis in Khartoum". East Afr
Med J. 76 (6): 338–40. PMID 10750522.

8. ^ Ghorbani A, Forouzesh M, Kazemifar AM (2014). "Variation in

Anatomical Position of Vermiform Appendix among Iranian Population:
An Old Issue Which Has Not Lost Its Importance". Anat Res Int. 2014:
313575. doi:10.1155/2014/313575. PMC 4176911. PMID 25295193.

9. ^ Denjalić A, Delić J, Delić-Custendil S, Muminagić S (2009).

"[Variations in position and place of formation of appendix vermiformis
found in the course of open appendectomy]". Med Arh (in
Bosnian). 63 (2): 100–1. PMID 19537667.

10. ^ Zetina-Mejía CA, Alvarez-Cosío JE, Quillo-Olvera J (2009).

"Congenital absence of the cecal appendix. Case report". Cir
Cir. 77 (5): 407–10. PMID 19944032.

11. ^ Kumar, Vinay; Robbins, Stanley L.; Cotran, Ramzi S.

(1989). Robbins' pathologic basis of disease (4th ed.). Philadelphia:
Saunders. pp. 902–3. ISBN 0-7216-2302-6.

12. ^ Jump up to: Associated Press. "Scientists may have found

a b

appendix's purpose". MSNBC, 5 October 2007. Accessed 17 March


13. ^ Jump up to: Bollinger, R.R.; Barbas, A.S.; Bush, E.L.; Lin, S.S.;
a b

Parker, W. (21 December 2007). "Biofilms in the large bowel suggest

an apparent function of the human vermiform appendix". Journal of
Theoretical Biology. 249 (4): 826–
831. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2007.08.032. ISSN 0022-5193. PMID 1793630

14. ^ Sonnenburg J.L.; Angenent L.T.; Gordon J.I. (June 2004). "Getting a
grip on things: how do communities of bacterial symbionts become
established in our intestine?". Nat. Immunol. 5 (6): 569–
73. doi:10.1038/ni1079. PMID 15164016.

15. ^ Everett M.L.; Palestrant D.; Miller S.E.; Bollinger R.R.; Parker W.
(2004). "Immune exclusion and immune inclusion: a new model of
host-bacterial interactions in the gut". Clinical and Applied Immunology
Reviews. 5 (5): 321–32. doi:10.1016/j.cair.2004.03.001.

16. ^ Dunn, Rob. "Your Appendix Could Save Your Life". Retrieved 22
December 2016.
17. ^ Zahid, Aliya (2004-04-01). "The vermiform appendix: not a useless
organ". Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons--Pakistan:
JCPSP. 14 (4): 256–258. ISSN 1022-386X. PMID 15228837.

18. ^ Rankin, Lucille C.; Girard-Madoux, Mathilde J. H.; Seillet, Cyril;

Mielke, Lisa A.; Kerdiles, Yann; Fenis, Aurore; Wieduwild, Elisabeth;
Putoczki, Tracy; Mondot, Stanislas (2016-02-01). "Complementarity
and redundancy of IL-22-producing innate lymphoid cells". Nature
Immunology. 17 (2): 179–186. doi:10.1038/ni.3332. ISSN 1529-
2908. PMC 4720992. PMID 26595889.

19. ^ Research, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical (2016-08-
19). "Lucille Rankin". Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical
Research. Retrieved 2016-11-02.

20. ^ Jump up to: a b c

Smith H. F.; Parker W.; Kotzé, S. H.; Laurin, M.
(2013). "Multiple independent appearances of the cecal appendix in
mammalian evolution and an investigation of related ecological and
anatomical factors". Comptes Rendus
Palevol. doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2012.12.001.

21. ^ "Animal Structure & Function". Retrieved 2011-


22. ^ Jump up to: Smith H. F.; Fisher R. E.; Everett M. L.; Thomas A. D.;
a b

Bollinger, R. R.; Parker W. (2009). "Comparative anatomy and

phylogenetic distribution of the mammalian cecal appendix". Journal of
Evolutionary Biology. 22 (10): 1984–1999. doi:10.1111/j.1420-
9101.2009.01809.x. PMID 19678866.

23. ^ Darwin, Charles (1871) "Jim's Jesus". The Descent of Man, and
Selection in Relation to Sex. John Murray: London.

24. ^ "Appendix disorders Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments and

Causes". Retrieved 2010-05-19.

25. ^ "Statistics about Appendix disorder".

Retrieved 2010-05-19.

26. ^ Jump up to: Miller R., Kenneth; Levine, Joseph

a b c

(2002). Biology. Prentice Hall. pp. 92–98. ISBN 0-13-050730-X.

27. ^ Mingin G.C.; Baskin L.S. (2003). "Surgical management of the

neurogenic bladder and bowel". Int Braz J Urol. 29 (1): 53–
61. doi:10.1590/S1677-55382003000100012. PMID 15745470.

28. ^ "Wellington Children's Hospital : Caring for an ACE or Chait Tube :

Healthpoint". Retrieved 22 December 2016.

29. ^ Laurin M.; Everett, M.L.; Parker W. (2011). "The cecal appendix: one
more immune component with a function disturbed by post-industrial
culture". Anatomical Record. 294 (4): 567–579. doi:10.1002/ar.21357.
30. ^ Evolution of the Appendix: A Biological 'Remenant' No More; By
Duke Medicine News and Communications; Published: 20 August
2009 Updated: 21 August

Further reading[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has
media related to Appendix

 Appendix May Actually Have a Purpose—2007 WebMD article

 Anatomy photo:37:12-0102 at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center

—"Abdominal Cavity: The Cecum and the Vermiform Appendix"

 "The vestigiality of the human vermiform appendix: A Modern

Reappraisal"—evolutionary biology argument that the appendix is

 Smith, H.F.; Fisher, R.E.; Everett, M.L.; Thomas, A.D.; Bollinger, R.

Randal; Parker, W. (October 2009). "Comparative anatomy and
phylogenetic distribution of the mammalian cecal
appendix". Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 22 (10): 1984–
99. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01809.x. ISSN 1420-9101. PMID

 Cho, Jinny. "Scientists refute Darwin's theory on appendix". The

Chronicle (Duke University), August 27, 2009. (News article on the
above journal article.)


Anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract, excluding the mouth








Pterygomandibular raphe

Pharyngeal raphe

Buccopharyngeal fascia

Pharyngobasilar fascia

Piriform sinus








Angular incisure








Gastric mucosa

Gastric folds


Gastric pits

Gastric glands

Cardiac glands

Fundic glands

Pyloric glands

Foveolar cell

Parietal cell

Gastric chief cell

Enterochromaffin-like cell
Intestinal villus

Intestinal gland

Enteroendocrine cell

Goblet cell

Paneth cell

Suspensory muscle

Major duodenal papilla

Duodenum Minor duodenal papilla

Duodenojejunal flexure

Brunner's glands

Jejunum No substructures

Ileocecal valve

Ileum Peyer's patches

Microfold cell

Cecum Appendix

Ascending colon

Hepatic flexure

Transverse colon

Splenic flexure

Descending colon
Sigmoid colon


taenia coli


epiploic appendix

Transverse folds

Anal Anus

canal Anal columns

Anal valves
Anal sinuses

Pectinate line

Internal anal sphincter

Intersphincteric groove

External anal sphincter

/ Adventitia


lar layer


ar folds

laris mucosa

GND: 4190331-6

TA98: A05.7.02.007
 Digestive system
 Vestigial organs
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