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When writers want to add a little drama but don't want to spend a lot of time building up symptoms and later dealing with recovery, they'll dust off this old chesnut: The Burst Appendix.

What makes appendicitis great for writers is that it can affect an otherwise completely healthy character with little or no advance warning, a sort of Sickness Ex Machina if you will, and instantly creates a sense of ticking-time-bomb tension as the character must get the appendix removed before it explodes! The situation also takes delightfully little time to fix: Rush your character through some emergency surgery, spend a few seconds admiring the cool, new scar, and that's it; roll credits.

As a fairly common and thus well known condition, Appendicitis / Ruptured Appendix also falls under Small Reference Pools. Tonsillitis, and occasionally Gall Stones, can get similar treatment.

Subtrope of Sick Episode.

Has nothing to do with the extra parts of books.

No Real Life examples, please, unless they're extremely interesting.


Fan Works

  • This is a fairly common plot in Voltron: Legendary Defender sickfics. It's most common with Keith, but Pidge and Lance are just as likely to suffer from an inflamed appendix.
  • Laslow almost suffers this in the Modern AU Fire Emblem Fates fic ache, hiding the fact that he's in bad shape from his boyfriend Xander so as not to worry him. Lucky for him, Corrin gets him to the ER and tells Xander, who reads Laslow the riot act for not telling him he was so sick.


  • Karano Kyoukai has an excellent example: The very tragic villain of the third movie (Fujino Asagami) has a severe case of appendicitis, which leads her to believe she'd been stabbed. (It's complicated.) By the end of the episode, the girl's condition has worsened to a point where even immediate attention is pointless; she's vomiting blood and barely able to crawl. And that's before one mentions the killer chasing her, or the repeated rape. It ends comparably well for her, when Shiki (who can literally kill anything) kills appendicitis inside Fujino's body and saves her.


  • Madeline had this happen in one of her books, and the scene was also included in the movie adaptation, the 50s animated adaptation, and the first animated special.
  • Doc Leroy, one of the characters in J. T. Edson's Floating Outfit series of western novels, once saved the life of a cowhand with a burst appendix by operating on him with a Bowie knife.
  • The old writer's favourite. I remember reading a children's story about a boy who actually had a ruptured appendix, and one who faked it out of jealousy for the attention. It was one of those "magical teacher" stories and involved an alarm clock of some sort....
  • There was a Babysitters Club special where Kristy was stuck in the hospital with appendicitis.
    • One of the Babysitter's Little Sister spinoff books had Karen's best friend Nancy in the hospital with appendicitis.
  • In Stephen King's The Stand, after the superflu wipes out most of humanity, one of the survivors dies of appendicitis, because there are no doctors left around. Stu tries to remove it, but fails and he dies anyway. Then the guy's wife commits suicide afterward.
  • Similarly, in Robert Merle's novel Malevil, which is about the few survivors of a nuclear holocaust the protagonist eventually dies of appendicitis.
  • The Teenage Worrier's Worry Files has Letty's brother being rushed to hospital with appendicitis for the drama factor.

Live Action TV

  • Invoked in an episode of Mash: Hawkeye drugged a colonel and made him think he had acute appendicitis, conducting an unneccessary surgery. BJ refused to go along with it.
    • M*A*S*H also has another instance of this, in the episode with the long underwear. Blake is wearing the long underwear, and Hawkeye and Trapper threaten him, when suddenly Blake reacts as though punched. Turns out it's his appendix rupturing, and they have to operate immediately. The entire camp is mildly happy to hear that Blake's appendix was successfully and safely removed... but overjoyed at hearing that they didn't have to cut him out of the long underwear to do so, and so the long underwear was intact.
  • In the Sweet 16 episode of Life with Derek, Casey comes down with appendicitis. On her sixteenth birthday.
  • Doogie Howser, M.D.: 16-year-old Doogie rushes his appendicitis-stricken girlfriend, Wanda to the ER straight from their Drive-In Theater date. He proceeds to diagnose her (via pelvic exam!) and assist in the operation himself. Trouble ensues.
  • On I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie blinks Tony into a doctor just as Roger gets wheeled into the hospital for an appendectomy.
  • On Lost, Jack, the survivors' team doctor, had to have his appendix removed while on the island.
  • Daniel has very little to do in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Nemesis", as he's recovering from an emergency appendectomy. This was because Michael Shanks was recovering from an appendectomy himself.
  • Happened on an episode of Laverne and Shirley'; Shirley gets appendicitis while in costume rehearsing for their "Alice in Wonderland" play.
  • In the final season of All in The Family, 10-year-old Stephanie comes down with appendicitis on her birthday.
  • This occurred in an episode of Full House with Uncle Jessie, coincidentally while he was in the hospital while his twins were being born.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "Ghost Ship", Sam leaps into a pilot who must safely guide a plane out of the Bermuda Triangle and save one of the passengers from dying of appendicitis. Unusually for this trope, her appendix actually bursts, but Sam is able to use his medical knowledge to provide supportive care until they reach a hospital.
  • In the second season of Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm goes to hospital with what's assumed to be appendicitis. Ultimately turned on its' head as the diagnosis proves to be wrong.
  • In the episode of Scrubs entitled "My Day Off" J.D. develops appendicitis and has to experience the hospital from a patient's point of view.
  • In the Taiwanese Series Devil Beside You, Ahmon goes onstage after the lead guitarist goes down with appendicitis. He then gets to guitar suggestively in front of his love interest.
  • CSI had a variation of this, the serial killer Dr.Jekyll, who implanted a guy with a diseased appendix. Naturally, it killed the guy later.
  • In Australian children's TV series The Saddle Club, Lisa (one of the three central characters) is alone on horseback when she's overcome by the pain of Appendicitis and collapses on the trail.
  • Darlene keels over from a ruptured appendix in a first-season episode of Roseanne. A good chunk of the episode has Roseanne and Dan fussing around with medical forms and worrying about Darlene's health, to the point where they seem relieved when she's back to her smart-ass self by the end of the episode.
  • In the first episode of Step by Step, Al complains of a stomachache that turns out to be an inflamed appendix. Frank, who just assumed she was faking to get out of school, bemoans the fact that he almost sent her to school and her appendix could have actually ruptured before Carol had a chance to get her to the hospital.
  • Punky Brewster came down with appendicitis just before she was supposed to go on a vacation to Lake Geneva that took her two months to convince the penny-pinching Henry they should take. She's angry at missing the vacation and terrified of the surgery, but Henry promises that they'll go to the lake once she's recovered.
  • Steve Urkel comes down with appendicitis in an episode of Family Matters, groaning and collapsing dramatically to the Winslows' living room floor and saying his "last words" to them as if he expects to die from the surgery. Afterwards, he's seen sitting up in bed looking like his old self as Carl is brought in with a gunshot wound in the butt.
  • Arnold on Diff'rent Strokes has appendicitis in a two-part episode, and it's only after he and his new friend run away from the hospital (her racist father didn't want her rooming with a black child) that the family learns his appendix is a ticking time bomb. Luckily, the girl's father gets over himself in time for the family to find Arnold and get the kids back to the hospital before Arnold's appendix bursts.
  • Mr. Feeny's appendix bursts shortly after Cory wishes he would get sick on Boy Meets World. Cory naturally blames himself, but Feeny turns out no worse for the wear. (He even gets a cute nurse out of the deal!)
  • One episode of Everwood had Bright Abbot collapse from a burst appendix at his grandmother's birthday party, but because there's a blizzard they can't get him to the hospital. Worse, his father-in-law suffers a panic attack and can't perform the surgery, so Andy has to do it with Bright still conscious. Luckily, Harold is there to distract his son through the surgery by telling a story about the time he broke his arm as a child, and Bright gets through it fine.
  • On an episode of The Nanny, Fran fills in for Maggie as a candy striper on the same night Maxwell is brought in for an emergency appendectomy. Earlier in the episode his stomach pains had been mistaken for food poisoning due to C.C.'s cooking.

Real Life:

  • Harry Houdini died of a ruptured appendix, which may or may not have been exacerbated by someone punching him in the stomach a few days earlier--one theory is that he may have attributed the early symptoms of appendicitis to pain from the blow, and did not seek help as soon as he would have otherwise.
  • The Russian doctor Leonid Rogozov got appendicitis. While on an expedition in Antarctica. Where he was the only doctor. So he operated on himself.
  • James Roday (of Psych) was hospitalized with appendicitis and had to have it removed just prior to his scheduled appearance on WWE Raw. He recovered and was even able to make a literal phoned in appearance during the episode (albeit highly medicated and somewhat loopy)


Video Games

  • At least one Trauma Center game has the player character racing against time to remove an infected appendix before it bursts.

Web Original

  • Survival of the Fittest: Not one but two different characters (specifically R.J. Lowe and Helen Wilson) have died of appendicitis in version four.
  • In Dead Ends the abundance of zombies prevents Winny, Will's wife, from getting the operation that could have saved her. It is quite the Tear Jerker.

Western Animation

  • On The Simpsons, Dr. Hibbert performed an emergency appendectomy on the street, then threw the appendix away as if it were a live grenade. It even exploded like a grenade.
    • Another when Bart gets a stomach ache after accidentally eating a jagged metal from the Krusty cereal. He's sent to the hospital which it turns out to be appendicitis.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends had Jon suffer from appendicitis, though Garfield's obsession with a video game didn't help him at all. Fortunately, Odie was able to alert the paramedics to the situation.
  • Happened on Rocko's Modern Life. Before the procedure, Rocko has a dream in which his appendix is a little kid whom he consoles with a trip to the fair (and other, increasingly silly last requests) before he's taken out.
  • Near the end of the final season of As Told by Ginger, shortly after her breakup with Darren, Ginger is left feeling as if her "insides exploded". It's discovered that the pain she's been experiencing isn't solely because of the breakup, but is in fact due to acute Appendicitis. She's rushed to the hospital for an emergency Appendectomy.
  • In an episode of The Wild Thornberrys that takes place in Australia, Eliza has the misfortune of not only developing Appendicitis on Valentine's Day, but also that the commvee and mini-comm are immobile. It's a possible life or death situation as Nigel overcomes various obstacles to get her to a hospital.
  • In the Back at the Barnyard episode "Cowdyshack", Otis accidentally ruptures his friend Crazy Louie's appendix and seeks to replace it with a new one that's the prize for winning a golf tournament. They win the prize, only for Crazy Louie to discover that the appendix is a completely useless organ, so he sells it for money to get extra thumbs, which horrifies the gang.