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Updated: April 8, 2007

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Illustration by Donna Myers © 2007

The appendix is a narrow, dead-end tube about three-to-four inches long that hangs off of the cecum. Although it's commonly referred to as the "appendix," the real name for it is "vermiform appendix."

In the past, the appendix was considered an evolutionary leftover. Now however, scientists acknowledge that the appendix helps support the immune system in two ways. It helps tell lymphocytes where they need to go to fight an infection and it boosts the large intestine's immunity to a variety of foods and drugs. The latter helps keep your gastrointestinal tract from getting inflamed in response to certain food and medications you ingest.

To learn more about colorectal anatomy, please take a look at the Anatomy of the Large Intestine gallery.

  1. Martin, Loren. Ask the Experts: Medicine: What is the Function of the Human Appendix? Did it Once Have a Purpose that Has Since Been Lost? Scientific American. 21 Oct. 1999. 4 Sep. 2006 [http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=000CAE56-7201-1C71-9EB7809EC588F2D7].
  2. Your Immune System. Wellness Directory of Minnesota. 28 Nov. 2005. 4 Sep. 2006 [http://www.mnwelldir.org/docs/immune/immune1.htm].
Also Known As: vermiform appendix, vermiform process, processus vermiformis

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