askexpert.jpgThe research of SMU faculty Thomas B. Fomby and Wayne A. Woodward has been published in the January issue of the journal Archives of Surgery. Fomby is a professor and chairman of the Department of Economics and Woodward is a professor in the Department of Statistical Science.

The research described in the article “Association of Viral Infection and Appendicitis” looks at the relationship between appendicitis and seasonal viral infections. The scientists reviewed 36 years of hospital discharge data and concluded there is a relationship to a flu-like virus.

The appendix is a fingerlike pouch attached to the large intestine in the lower right area of the abdomen. IMAGE: NDDIC

Fomby and Woodward collaborated with researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Articles about the results of the research have been widely published on many science and research news sites, including Daily Mail Online, USA Today, Business Week, Science Daily,, Health News Digest, BioScience Technology, Newswise and many others.


Appendicitis may be triggered by a viral infection

Daily Mail Online
A viral infection could explain why appendicitis appears more common in certain years and during the summer.

A flu-like virus could be the hidden cause of appendicitis, scientists claim.

Although one in ten of us will experience the condition — in which the appendix becomes dangerously inflamed — doctors have always been baffled by what triggers it.

A viral cause would fit in with another of the researchers’ findings — that appendicitis appears to be more common in certain years and during the summer.

The illness occurs when the appendix, a worm-like cul-de-sac connected to the colon on the right side of the body, becomes inflamed.

A perforated appendix that has swollen and burst is life-threatening because the abdomen is filled with infected material. In fact, appendicitis is the most common reason for emergency surgery.

In the latest study, researchers examined American hospital admissions for appendicitis, influenza and gastric viral infections over 36 years.

Their analysis showed appendicitis peaked in the years 1977, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1994 and 1998.

That clustering pattern suggested outbreaks were typical of viral infections.

Seasonal trends were also uncovered, showing a slight increase in the number of appendicitis cases over the summer months.

Read the full story.

Related links:
Thomas B. Fomby home page
Wayne A. Woodward home page
Science Daily: Appendicitis May Be Related to Viral Infections
Archives of Surgery: Association of Viral Infection and Appendicitis