Hundreds of children are having needless operations to remove their appendix ever year, researchers have warned.
One in six children who underwent surgery for appendicitis actually had a healthy organ removed, according to a study of hospitals across Britain and Ireland.
Surgery for appendicitis is the most common emergency operation in children, with 10,000 children undergoing the procedure every year in Britain.
But according to the new study many of these operations are not needed - up to 1,600 a year, according to the researchers led by University of Birmingham.
They believe children are being misdiagnosed because doctors are not properly interpreting the ultrasound scans used to examine them.
Hundreds of children in the UK are having needless operations to remove their appendix ever year, researchers have warned (stock image)
The scientists tested the extracted organs of 1,827 children after they underwent appendicectomies at 139 different hospitals.
The tests - published today in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal - showed 16 per cent of the children had never had appendicitis in the first place.
Researcher Aneel Bhangu, senior lecturer in surgery at the University of Birmingham, said: 'Appendicectomy is the most common emergency operation in children.
'Our study found that overall the diagnosis is wrong for one in six children who undergo appendicectomy, and a normal appendix is removed.
'This places an unacceptable burden on both children and their carers.'
The children tested were aged between five and 15.
Overall, only around a third of children admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis actually underwent an appendicectomy.
Of those who had the operation at the age of five to ten, 12 per cent had unnecessary operations.
Appendicitis is a swelling of the appendix, a two to four-inch-long organ connected to the large intestine.
Appendicitis can cause severe pain and it's important for it to be treated swiftly in case the appendix bursts, which can cause life-threatening illness.
In most cases surgeons will remove the appendix in an appendectomy – scientists aren't sure why people need an appendix but removing it does not harm people.
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