Is the appendix functionless?

Appendix or vermiform appendix is the name of an organ in our body as thick as about a pencil and as long as our index finger, that lies like a protuberance where the small and large intestines unite.

The inflammation of the appendix is called appendicitis and is frequently seen. Its symptoms are typical, its diagnosis is easy and it necessitates operation. The trouble is eliminated by removing the appendix through a simple operation (appendectomy). We all have heard about this operation which has almost no risk through our relatives or friends.

Although appendix is one of the digestive organs, it does not participate in digestion. When it is removed through an operation due to its inflammation, the patient continues his usual life and he does not lack anything. Therefore some people claimed that appendix was redundant until recently. They thought like this: Why does an organ whose removal does not give any harm to a person exist? Need it not have a function?

Time and the advancements in medicine showed that these people were wrong.

The function of the appendix resembles tonsils. As it is known, the mouth is the starting point of digestion. The place where microbes (microorganisms that are the cause of illnesses) are housed the most intensively is here. The large intestines also house a lot of microbes like the mouth. As tonsils are a kind of fuse and guard for the body against the microbes in the mouth, similarly the appendix is a fuse and guard against the microbes in the large intestines. That is, it is the tonsil in the large intestines. (1)

According to the recent researches people whose appendixes have been removed suffer from large intestine cancer more frequently than people with appendixes. (2)

Researches about the functions of the appendix are still being carried out and there are many unproved claims.

(1) Sindirim Sistemi Cerrahisi, Cilt II, Prof.Dr. Orhan Bumin, 1976.
(2) Human Appendix and Neoplasma, Canser H.R. Dierman, 1968

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