Nate Berkus has appendicitis!

Talk show host and Oprah Winfrey interior design guru Nate Berkus was hospitalized today with appendicitis. Berkus, 39, was feeling poorly when he appeared this morning on the Today show, but he chose to push through the appearance. Afterward, he went straight to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with appendicitis and was expected to undergo surgery today. Taping for his show, The Nate Berkus Show, will have to be postponed. He is expected to be back at work next week.

What is the appendix and what is appendicitis?
The appendix is a hollow pouch, about the size and shape of your little finger,which hangs off of  the large intestine, and in located in the right lower part of the abdomen. The function of the appendix is unknown and its removal does not seem to cause any harm to a person’s health. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix when the opening of the pouch becomes obstructed, allowing germs to overgrow and cause an infection. If left untreated, the appendix can become so swollen that it bursts open, allowing germs to spill out into abdominal cavity outside of the intestines (also known as the peritoneal cavity). This infection of the peritoneal cavity is a more dangerous condition, known as peritonitis.

 

Anyone can get appendicitis, but it is most common in people aged 10-30. The classic signs and symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Severe abdominal pain, typically starting around the umbilicus (belly button), then moving to the right lower abdomen as the disease progresses. Symptoms may progress over a period of 12-18 hours.
  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Tenderness in right lower abdomen on examination, especially with “guarding” or “rebound.” Guarding is a subconscious tightening of the abdominal muscles, even before the abdomen is touched. Rebound is when the pain is worse when an examiner hand lifts up than when the examiner presses down on the abdomen.
  • Movement of the leg in certain directions causes pain in the right lower abdomen (psoas and obturator signs).
  • There are other diseases whose symptoms can mimic appendicitis, so examination by a doctor is essential.

Treatment is the surgical removal of the appendix through a small incision in the lower abdomen.

For more information about appendicitis, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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