Appendix - Appendectomy
What is an Appendectomy?
An appendectomy is a surgery to remove the appendix when it is infected. This condition is called appendicitis. An appendectomy is one of the most common emergency surgeries.
The appendix is a thin pouch that is connected to the large intestine. It is located in the lower right part of your belly. If you have appendicitis, your appendix must be removed right away. If not treated, your appendix can burst. This is considered a medical emergency.
There are 2 types of surgery to remove the appendix. The most common method is an open appendectomy. A newer, less invasive method is a laparoscopic appendectomy.
- Open appendectomy. A cut or incision about 2 to 4 inches long is made in the lower right-hand side of your belly or abdomen. The appendix is taken out through the incision.
- Laparoscopic appendectomy. This method is less invasive. That means it’s done without a large incision. Instead, from 1 to 3 tiny cuts are made. A long, thin tube called a laparoscope is put into one of the incisions. It has a tiny video camera and surgical tools. The surgeon looks at a TV monitor to see inside your abdomen and guide the tools. The appendix is removed through one of the incisions.
During laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon may determine that an open appendectomy is needed. If your appendix has burst and the infection has spread, you may need an open appendectomy immediately.
A laparoscopic appendectomy may cause less pain and scarring than an open appendectomy. For either type of surgery, the scar is often hard to see once it has healed over time.
Both types of surgery have a low risk of complications. A laparoscopic appendectomy has a shorter hospital stay, shorter recovery time, and lower infection rates.
Recently, some studies have suggested that intravenous antibiotics alone could cure appendicitis without the need for an appendectomy. These results remain controversial and appendectomy remains the standard.
Why might I need an appendectomy?
You may need an appendectomy to remove your appendix if you show symptoms of appendicitis. Appendicitis is a medical emergency. It is when your appendix becomes sore, swollen, and infected.
If you have appendicitis, there is a serious risk your appendix may burst or rupture. This can happen as soon as 48 to 72 hours after you have symptoms. It can cause a severe, life-threatening infection called peritonitis in your belly.
If you have appendicitis symptoms, seek medical care right away.
What are the risks of an Appendectomy?
Some possible complications of an appendectomy include:
You may have other risks that are unique to you. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before surgery.
How do I get ready for an appendectomy?
Tell your surgeon if you:
Your healthcare provider may have other instructions for you based on your medical condition.
What happens during an appendectomy?
In most cases an appendectomy is an emergency surgery and will require a short hospital stay. You will have either an open appendectomy or a laparoscopic appendectomy. This will depend on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
An appendectomy is done while you are given medicines to put you into a deep sleep (under general anesthesia).
Generally, the appendectomy follows this process:
Procedure completion, both methods
What happens after an appendectomy?
In the hospital
After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room. Your healthcare team will watch your vital signs, such as your heart rate and breathing. Your recovery will depend on the type of surgery that was done and the type of anesthesia you had. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are awake and alert, you will be taken to your hospital room.
A laparoscopic appendectomy may be done on an outpatient basis. In this case, you may be discharged and sent home from the recovery room. You will be provided pain medication as needed.
You may have a thin plastic tube that goes through your nose into your stomach. This is used to remove stomach fluids and air that you swallow. The tube will be taken out when your bowels are working normally. You will not be able to eat or drink until the tube is removed.
You will be asked to get out of bed a few hours after a laparoscopic surgery or by the next day after open surgery. You may be allowed to drink liquids a few hours after surgery. You may slowly be able to add more solid foods. You will set up a follow-up visit with your healthcare provider. This is often 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.
When you are home, you must keep the incision clean and dry. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to bathe. Any stitches or surgical staples used will be removed at a follow-up office visit. If adhesive strips were used, they should be kept dry. They will often fall off in a few days.
The incision and your abdominal muscles may ache, often after long periods of standing. Take pain medicine as prescribed by your surgeon. Aspirin or other pain medicines may raise your risk of bleeding.
If you had a laparoscopy, you may feel pain from the carbon dioxide gas that is still in your belly. This pain may last for a few days. You should feel a bit better each day. Your provider will likely want you to walk and move around a bit. But avoid any tiring activity. Your provider will tell you when you can return to work and your normal activities.
Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
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