Pop star Kelly Clarkson showed no hint of discomfort on May 1, 2019, as she belted out the lyrics to her newest hit song Broken and Beautiful, while hosting the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, United States.
“I know I’m Superwoman, I know I’m strong,” sang Clarkson, as she swayed on stage.
But shortly after the performance, she broke down off stage from the belly pain she had reportedly been suffering from all week.
She then flew back to Los Angeles and had surgery for appendicitis. “#TheShowMustGoOn,” she posted in a tweet after her surgery.
While Clarkson “nailed the surgery” and is now “feeling awesome” as she recovers, any holdup in seeking help for severe belly pain could lead to dire outcomes, experts warn.
And jumping on a plane with any medical concern – especially when there are quality hospitals and doctors available where you are – is never a good idea, said Rick Pescatore, director of clinical research in the department of emergency medicine at Crozer-Keystone Health System.
A delay in diagnosing appendicitis can have severe and significant consequences, he said. “I have seen it progress so incredibly rapidly and become really life-threatening.”
The appendix is a tube of tissue, normally around three or four inches (7.6 to 10.2 centimetres) long, that extends from the large intestine.
What the tissue is there for is not certain. But leave an inflamed appendix untreated for too long, and it can rupture, potentially leading to sepsis and septic shock, which can be fatal.
Other problems include having to remove more of the intestine if infection has spread, and developing adhesions – bands of scarlike tissue that can result in bowel obstructions and lead to further surgeries, according to Pescatore.
But catch it early enough and removal is a relatively straightforward and common procedure, he said.
About 8.6% of men and 6.7% of women in the US will develop appendicitis at some point, according to the American Family Physician clinical evidence handbook.
“It is one of the first things you think about when someone comes in with belly pain,” Pescatore said.
At age 37, Clarkson was not a typical patient, according to him. Appendicitis tends to happen at a younger age and peaks at about age 20.
Another peak in appendicitis occurs around age 65, he added.
Gastroenteritis, gallbladder issues, pregnancy or something else specific to a patient’s medical history may come to mind first in a woman of Clarkson’s age with belly pain, but appendicitis is always on the list, said Pescatore.
While surgery is still the standard of care, there have been studies done using antibiotics as a non-operative treatment for acute appendicitis, he said.
“If you have pain that doesn’t make sense to you, you need to see a doctor,” he said.
“We see this again and again where patients delay presenting for medical care when they know in their heart of hearts that they should.”
Symptoms of classic appendicitis include (though not all are always present):
• Pain that starts behind the belly button and migrates down to the lower right side
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and/or vomiting
Fever – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service