Appendectomies are among the most common operations, but the American Journal of Surgery reports that some 6 to 16 percent are unnecessary, thus laying doctors open to malpractice suits.
The reason is that appendicitis is not easy to identify. Pain in the lower right abdomen is often a sign, but it can also be caused by strain or pain around other parts of the stomach, and one-third of patients shows such vague symptoms.
Song Hyoung-gon, a professor of emergency medicine at Samsung Medical Center, said doctors simply have no way of identifying appendicitis 100 percent, even though it is the most common cause of emergency surgery.
But if it turns out during the operation that the patient was not suffering from appendicitis, doctors usually remove the appendix anyway, reasoning that at least it prevents appendicitis in the future.