Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The pain from appendicitis may change over time, so establishing a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult. In addition, abdominal pain can arise from a number of health problems other than appendicitis. To help diagnose appendicitis, your doctor will likely take a history of your signs and symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination of your abdomen.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose appendicitis include:

  • Physical exam to assess your pain. Your doctor may apply gentle pressure on the painful area. When the pressure is suddenly released, appendicitis pain will often feel worse, signaling that the adjacent peritoneum is inflamed. Other signs your doctor may watch for include abdominal rigidity and a tendency to stiffen your abdominal muscles in response to pressure over the inflamed appendix (guarding).
  • Blood test. This allows your doctor to check for a high white blood cell count, which may indicate an infection.
  • Urine test. Your doctor may want you to have a urinalysis to make sure that a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone isn't causing your pain. If it is a kidney stone, red blood cells are usually seen during microscopic examination of the urine.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may also recommend an abdominal X-ray, an ultrasound scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to help confirm appendicitis or find other causes for your pain.
Aug. 13, 2011