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13 July 2014
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You are here: BBC Science > Human Body & Mind > The Body > Organs
Fact files

Organs - Appendix

System: Unknown

Location: Attached to the first part of your large intestine

Physical description: A narrow, muscular, worm-like pouch, usually around nine centimetres long

Function: Unknown

No known function in humans

The appendix has no known function in humans. Evidence suggests that our evolutionary ancestors used their appendixes to digest tough food like tree bark, but we don't use ours in digestion now. Some scientists believe that the appendix will disappear from the human body.

Rich in infection-fighting lymphoid cells

The appendix is rich in infection-fighting lymphoid cells, suggesting that it might play a role in the immune system. Whether the appendix has a function or not, it can be removed without any ill effects.

Appendicitis

Indigestible food delivered from the small intestine to the large intestine flows into the appendix and is forced out by contraction of the muscular walls of the appendix. A blockage in the opening where the appendix attaches to the large intestine can lead to inflammation of the appendix, known as appendicitis. This can cause acute pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, but can be cured easily by removing the appendix.

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