By Marta Cyperling
Posted October 6, 2008
New research from the University of Calgary suggests high levels of air pollution may increase the risk of appendicitis. The findings are being presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Orlando.
Researchers identified more than 5,000 adults who were hospitalized for appendicitis in Calgary between 1999 and 2006 and studied the relationship between air pollutants and the development of appendicitis.
For the study, researchers used data from Environment Canada that collects hourly levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter of varying sizes. The findings showed that higher concentrations of air pollutants were associated with the occurrence of appendicitis in the population. The effect of air pollution was strongest during the summer months when people were more likely to be outside.
"In developing countries appendicitis rarely occurs; however, as these nations become industrialized the incidence of appendicitis increases," says Dr. Gilaad G. Kaplan, the principal investigator from the University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine and member of the Calvin Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute of Infection Immunity and Inflammation. "Our paper provides epidemiologic evidence that some cases of appendicitis may be triggered by exposures to air pollutants. This relationship may explain the drop in the incidence of appendicitis in North America and Europe in the latter part of the twentieth century".
Previous studies have shown air pollution can promote other disease states through inflammation and this may be the mechanism by which air pollution increases the risk of appendicitis.
Adult appendicitis is a common condition whose onset is unclear and almost universally requires surgery.
Dr. Elijah Dixon a Calgary surgeon who has operated on many appendicitis patients says this new research is extremely important, "it represents a possible paradigm shift in our understanding of disease processes of the GI tract, and in this case appendicitis. It raises very interesting questions about disease pathophysiology, and possibly disease prevention for the future."
About the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary
The U of C's Faculty of Medicine is a national leader in health research with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research, education and delivery. Through its educational programs, the Faculty of Medicine trains the physicians and scientists who will lead the next generation of health practitioners. Through its clinical work, continuing medical education programs, and close relationship with the Calgary Health Region, the Faculty of Medicine moves new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory bench to the hospital bedside efficiently and effectively, improving patient care.
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