The recently popular topic circulating amongst the medical community is the possible link between appendectomies, the surgical removal of the appendix, and Parkinson's disease. The appendix does not have a known function, which is why it can be removed without further consequences. However, it is composed of lymphatic tissue, which leads many to suspect that the appendix helps filter and fight bacteria. But can it be removed without adverse effects?
It seems the medical community is split on whether there is a decreased or increased risk of developing Parkinson's in those who have had an appendectomy. Although what can be agreed upon is that there is a gut protein that is housed in the appendix and surrounding gastrointestinal tract that may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease. The protein known as alpha-synuclein is primarily found in the brain, heart, and muscle. In Parkinson's disease, the protein is overproduced and eventually clings to the brain cells and begins the deterioration process. The formation of alpha-synuclein aggregates, or clumps of this protein, is believed to be produced in the gut and then delivered to the brain. Once in the brain, the aggregates attach to the brain cells and begin the deterioration process seen in Parkinson's disease. The aggregates on the brain cells, when associated with the progressive disease, are called Lewy bodies.
One thing is certain and that is that further research will need to be conducted to determine the exact connection between the appendix and Parkinson’s disease. Since the alpha-synuclein aggregates have been found in the appendix, could there indeed be a connection? At this time, an appendectomy is a primary treatment for appendicitis. It will remain such until definitive proof that the surgery causes more harm than good.