An appendectomy is the removal of the appendix. The appendix is a pouch that is attached to the large intestine.
Reasons for Procedure
An appendectomy is often done as an emergency procedure to treat appendicitis. Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. It can be caused by an infection or obstruction.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Damage to other organs
- Reaction to anesthesia
Complications are more common in people older than 65 years of age. Some risk factors that make complications more likely include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
- Your doctor may need detailed pictures of your appendix. These can be made with:
Antibiotics will be started right away. Appendicitis is an emergency condition. Surgery is almost always done right away.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
Description of the Procedure
A short incision will be made in the right lower abdomen. The appendix can be viewed through this incision. The appendix will be detached from surrounding tissue. Any bleeding from the blood vessels will be stopped. The appendix will then be tied off and cut out. The incisions will then be closed with stitches or staples.
If the appendix has ruptured, a warm water solution mixed with antibiotics will be used to wash out the inside of the abdomen. A catheter will then be placed to drain any fluid that builds up. Sometimes, with a rupture, the surgeon will only close the muscle layers and leave the skin open. The open skin wound will then be packed with a moist gauze dressing.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
You may be in the hospital for up to 3 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication to prevent blood clots
- Getting out of bed and moving around within 24 hours of your surgery
If your appendix ruptured, drainage tubes will be removed after a few days.
Your bowels will work more slowly than usual. Chewing gum may help speed the process of your bowel function returning to normal.
Recovery takes about 4-6 weeks. When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Rest and take it easy for 1-2 weeks. Slowly increase activities as approved by your doctor.
- Do not exercise or do heavy lifting for 1 or more weeks as directed by your doctor.
- Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
Call doctor if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Increased redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
- Increased abdominal pain
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Passing blood in the stool
If you think you are having an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Surgeons
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Family Physician
Appendectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/gastroenterology/appendectomy_92,P07686. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Appendectomy. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/surgery/appendectomy.html. Updated March 2013. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Appendicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 27, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
3/23/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Short V, Herbert G, et al. Chewing gum for postoperative recovery of gastrointestinal function. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Feb 20;2.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.