Rebecca Bernard
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Can You Diagnose Appendicitis with Speed Bumps?

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Photo: atomicity via CC

In the world of medicine, there is a lot of false information going around. WebMD routinely tells us that traditional ailments like sore throats are totally cancer, and some among us would rather catch measles than get a vaccine. This month, when suffering abdominal pain, it was suggested that I drive over a speed bump to see if it was appendicitis.

Wait, what?

You might think it’s an old wives’ tale that increased pain when cruising over bumps and potholes is a sign of an inflamed appendix, but you would be only slightly wrong. A 2012 study published in The British Medical Journal found that patients that felt more pain when hitting speed bumps on the way to the hospital were more likely than other patients to have appendicitis. Constant pain with no changes over bumps and other obstacles was an indicator that there was another cause at work.


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“It may sound odd, but asking patients whether their pain worsened going over speed bumps on their way into hospital could help doctors in a diagnosis,” said Dr. Helen Ashdown of the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford told Wired in 2012. “It turns out to be as good as many other ways of assessing people with suspected appendicitis.”

It’s worth noting that wincing when you drive over a bump is not a definitive way to diagnose appendicitis. Patients eventually treated for diverticulitis or ruptured ovarian cysts also experienced jolts of pain when roughly jostled on the way to the hospital. Even if it’s not a definitive way to diagnose the issue, it can at least help doctors decide if the condition would be a valid reason for discomfort instead of taking out a healthy organ.


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Of course, if you’re feeling any abdominal pain right now and this article showed up in your search results, you should talk to your doctor, not a car lady from the internet. Maybe make sure you hit a speed bump on your way just in case.

News Source: Wired, MedicineNet