Acute appendicitis mimicking intestinal obstruction in a patient with cystic fibrosis

J Formos Med Assoc. 2012 Oct;111(10):580-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jfma.2012.07.011. Epub 2012 Sep 10.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease of the secretory glands caused by mutations of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) gene. The clinical manifestations of CF are repetitive lung infections, biliary cirrhosis, pancreatic abnormalities, and gastrointestinal disorders. We report a 21-year-old Taiwanese man with CF who had abdominal pain for 2 days. The diagnosis of CF had been confirmed by peripheral blood analysis of the CFTR gene 5 years before admission. He presented to the emergency department with nausea, vomiting, abdominal distension, and crampy abdominal pain, which is atypical for acute appendicitis. The physical examination and a series of studies revealed intestinal obstruction, but acute appendicitis could not be ruled out. After conservative treatment, together with empiric antibiotics, the refractory abdominal pain and leukocytosis with a left-shift warranted surgical intervention. A diagnostic laparoscopy revealed a swollen, hyperemic appendix, a severely distended small intestine, and serous ascites. The laparoscopic procedure was converted to a laparotomy for open disimpaction and appendectomy. He was discharged on the eighth postoperative day. The histologic examination of the appendix was consistent with early appendicitis. In conclusion, acute abdominal pain in adult CF patients is often associated with intestinal obstruction syndrome. The presentation of concurrent appendicitis may be indolent and lead not only to diagnostic difficulties, but also a number of therapeutic choices.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adult
  • Appendicitis / complications
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Appendicitis / surgery
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Young Adult