What Is an Appendectomy?
An appendectomy is the
surgical removal of the appendix. It’s a common emergency surgery that’s performed
to treat appendicitis, an inflammatory condition of the appendix.
The appendix is a small,
tube-shaped pouch attached to your large intestine. It’s located in the lower
right side of your abdomen. The exact purpose of the appendix isn’t known.
However, it’s believed that it may help us recover from diarrhea, inflammation,
and infections of the small and large intestines. These may sound like
important functions, but the body can still function properly without an
When the appendix
becomes inflamed and swollen, bacteria can quickly multiply inside the organ
and lead to the formation of pus. This buildup of bacteria and pus can cause
pain around the belly button that spreads to the lower right section of the
abdomen. Walking or coughing can make the pain worse. You may also experience
nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
It’s important to
seek treatment right away if you’re having symptoms of appendicitis. When the
condition goes untreated, the appendix can burst (perforated appendix) and
release bacteria and other harmful substances into the abdominal cavity. This
can be life-threatening, and will lead to a longer hospital stay.
Appendectomy is the
standard treatment for appendicitis. It’s crucial to remove the appendix right away,
before the appendix can rupture. Once an appendectomy
is performed, most people recover quickly and without complications.
Why Is an Appendectomy Performed?
An appendectomy is
often done to remove the appendix when an infection has made it inflamed and
swollen. This condition is known as appendicitis. The infection may occur when
the opening of the appendix becomes clogged with bacteria and stool. This
causes your appendix to become swollen and inflamed.
The easiest and
quickest way to treat appendicitis is to remove the appendix. Your appendix
could burst if appendicitis isn’t treated immediately and effectively. If the
appendix ruptures, the bacteria and fecal particles within the organ can spread
into your abdomen. This may lead to a serious infection called peritonitis. You can also develop an abscess if
your appendix ruptures. Both are life-threatening situations that require
- stomach pain that starts suddenly
near the belly button and spreads to the lower right side of the abdomen
- abdominal swelling
- rigid abdominal muscles
- constipation or diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- low-grade fever
Although pain from appendicitis typically occurs in the lower right side
of the abdomen, pregnant women may have pain in the upper right side of the abdomen.
This is because the appendix is higher during pregnancy.
Go to the emergency room
immediately if you believe you have appendicitis. An appendectomy needs to be
performed right away to prevent complications.
What Are the Risks of an Appendectomy?
An appendectomy is
a fairly simple and common procedure. However, there are some risks associated with the surgery, including:
- injury to nearby organs
- blocked bowels
It’s important to
note that the risks of an appendectomy are much less severe than the risks
associated with untreated appendicitis. An appendectomy needs to be done
immediately to prevent abscesses and peritonitis from developing.
How Do I Prepare for an Appendectomy?
You’ll need to avoid eating and drinking for at least eight
hours before the appendectomy. It’s also important to tell your doctor about
any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Your doctor
will tell you how they should be used before and after the procedure.
You should also tell your doctor if you:
pregnant or believe you may be pregnant
allergic or sensitive to latex or certain medications, such as anesthesia
a history of bleeding disorders
You should also arrange for a family member or friend to
drive you home after the procedure. An appendectomy is often performed using
general anesthesia, which can make you drowsy and unable to drive for several
hours after surgery.
Once you’re at the
hospital, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and perform a
physical examination. During the exam, your doctor will gently push against
your abdomen to pinpoint the source of your abdominal pain.
Your doctor may
order blood tests and imaging tests if appendicitis is caught early. However,
these tests may not be performed if your doctor believes an emergency
appendectomy is necessary.
appendectomy, you’ll be hooked up to an IV so you can receive fluids and
medication. You’ll likely be put under general anesthesia, which means you’ll
be asleep during surgery. In some cases, you’ll be given local anesthesia
instead. A local anesthetic numbs the area, so even though you’ll be awake
during the surgery, you won’t feel any pain.
How Is an Appendectomy Performed?
There are two types
of appendectomy: open and laparoscopic. The type of surgery your doctor chooses
depends on several factors, including the severity of your appendicitis and
your medical history.
During an open
appendectomy, a surgeon makes one incision in the lower right side of your
abdomen. Your appendix is removed and the wound is closed with stiches. This
procedure allows your doctor to clean the abdominal cavity if your appendix has
Your doctor may
choose an open appendectomy if your appendix has ruptured and the infection has
spread to other organs. It’s also the preferred option for people who have had
abdominal surgery in the past.
laparoscopic appendectomy, a surgeon accesses the appendix through a few small
incisions in your abdomen. A small, narrow tube called a
cannula will then be inserted. The cannula is used to inflate your abdomen with
carbon dioxide gas. This gas allows the surgeon to see your appendix more
Once the abdomen is inflated, an instrument called a
laparoscope will be inserted through the incision. The laparoscope is a long,
thin tube with a high-intensity light and a high-resolution camera at the
front. The camera will display the images on a screen, allowing the surgeon to
see inside your abdomen
and guide the instruments. When the appendix is found, it will be tied off with
stiches and removed. The small incisions are then cleaned, closed, and dressed.
surgery is usually the best option for older adults and people who are
overweight. It has fewer risks than an open appendectomy procedure, and
generally has a shorter recovery time.
What Happens After an Appendectomy?
When the appendectomy
is over, you’ll be observed for several hours before you’re released from the
hospital. Your vital signs, such your breathing and heart rate, will be
monitored closely. Hospital staff will also check for any adverse reactions to
the anesthesia or the procedure.
The timing of
your release will depend on:
overall physical condition
type of appendectomy performed
body’s reaction to the surgery
cases, you may have to remain in the hospital overnight.
You may be
able to go home the same day as the surgery if your appendicitis wasn’t severe.
A family member or friend will need to drive you home if you received general
anesthesia. The effects of general anesthesia usually take several hours to
wear off, so it can be unsafe to drive after the procedure.
In the days
following the appendectomy, you may feel moderate pain in the areas where
incisions were made. Any pain or discomfort should improve within a few days.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve the pain. They might also
prescribe antibiotics to prevent
an infection after surgery. You can further reduce your risk for infection by
keeping the incisions clean. You should also watch for signs of infection,
- redness and swelling around the
- fever above 101°F
- loss of appetite
- stomach cramps
- diarrhea or constipation that lasts
for more than two days
Although there’s a
small risk of infection, most people recover from
appendicitis and an appendectomy with little difficulty. Full recovery from an appendectomy
takes about four to six weeks. During this time, your doctor will probably
recommend that you limit physical activity so your body can heal. You’ll need to attend a follow-up
appointment with your doctor within two to three weeks after the appendectomy.