What Does the Appendix Do?


Quick Answer

The function of the vermiform appendix is unclear, though according to WebMD, some have suggested the organ acts as a repository for beneficial intestinal flora. The theory states that after beneficial bacteria are lost during a bout with diarrhea, the bacteria inside the appendix are available to repopulate the lower gastrointestinal tract. As of 2014, this theory has not been demonstrated conclusively.

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Full Answer

It is also possible, according to HowStuffWorks, that the vermiform appendix serves no identifiable purpose and is simply a vestigial remnant of earlier stages in human evolution. In this view, the appendix is a non-functional structure that has been retained from the time when human ancestors needed larger and more complex gut anatomy to digest food. Promoters of this view argue that the appendix is routinely removed surgically without apparent ill effects, suggesting that whatever function it might still play in human physiology is minor enough to go unnoticed. Despite its apparent lack of function and the fact that 7 percent of the general public needs an appendectomy at some point, the standard opinion among doctors and medical researchers is that, whatever its function, a healthy appendix does no identifiable harm and can be left undisturbed in most cases.

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