A recent study suggests that having your appendix removed (an appendectomy) is associated with an increased risk of Parkinsonís disease (PD). Mohammed Sheriff, MD, of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, examined the medical records of 62 million patients for the research. He found that one percent of people who had an appendectomy developed PD, while less than 0.3 percent of those who did not have the procedure were diagnosed with Parkinsonís. So while the overall risk remains low, it was tripled among those whoíd had their appendix removed.
As sometimes happens in science, these results are inconsistent with a previous study that came to the opposite conclusion: that appendectomy is associated with a decreased risk of PD. But what these studies have in common is demonstrating an association between the appendix and Parkinsonís. They donít prove a cause (such as that having your appendix out definitively increases or decreases your risk of disease), but they do add to ongoing research about the gutís involvement in PD.
Commenting on this work, Kuldip Dave, director of research programs at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, says, ďThereís a growing body of evidence demonstrating a connection between the gut and Parkinsonís. Researchers have found alpha-synuclein, the primary Parkinsonís protein, in the gastrointestinal tract. So, itís no surprise that the appendix and Parkinsonís have been linked.Ē
The bottom line? While these results donít change current medical practice (appendectomy remains the main treatment for appendicitis), they do point researchers in the direction of further work to find the exact mechanisms (infection or inflammation, for example) that link the appendix to Parkinsonís.