An appendectomy is the removal of the appendix. The appendix is a pouch that is attached to the large intestine.
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.
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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
Some risk factors that make complications more likely include:
- Ruptured appendix
- Older age, especially age 65 years and older
- Chronic lung or heart disease
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:
- CT scan
Antibiotics will be started right away. Appendicitis is an emergency condition. Surgery is almost always done right away.
A short incision will be made in the right lower abdomen. The doctor will be able to see the appendix through this cut. The appendix will be detached from surrounding tissue. The surgeon will stop any bleeding from blood vessels. 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.
The removed tissue is examined by a pathologist.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
You may be in the hospital for up to three days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
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.
Recovery takes about 4-6 weeks.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- You may be given antibiotics to fight infection. Take all the medications ordered even if you start to feel better.
- Keep the incision area clean and dry.
- Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
- Wash your hands before changing the dressing.
- 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 one or more weeks as directed by 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 have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Appendectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/gastroenterology/appendectomy_92,P07686. Accessed December 13, 2013.
Appendectomy. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/surgery/appendectomy.html. Updated March 2013. Accessed December 13, 2013.
Appendicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed December 13, 2013.
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Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 17th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2003.
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.
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Last reviewed December 13, 2013 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.
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