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An appendectomy is the removal of the appendix. The appendix is a small, blind-ended tube that is attached to the large intestine.
Reasons for Procedure
An appendectomy is most often done as an emergency operation 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
- Blockage of the bowel
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
- Imaging studies of the abdomen may be done to find the appendix and look for evidence of infection or inflammation, including:
IV fluids and antibiotics will be started right away. Since appendicitis is an emergency condition, surgery is almost always done as soon a possible after the diagnosis is made.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
Description of the Procedure
Three small incisions will be made in the abdomen. A laparoscope (small tool with a camera on the end) will be passed through an incision. Gas will be blown into the abdomen to make it easier for the doctor to see. Other tools will be inserted into the incisions. The camera will send images to a video screen. These images will be used to find and remove the appendix.
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 be closed with stitches or staples.
The removed tissue is examined by a pathologist.
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
You may go home on the same day, if the surgery was routine. If infection, rupture, or other complications happen, the stay will be longer.
At the Hospital
You will be asked to get out of bed about 6 hours after surgery.
Your bowels will work more slowly than usual. Chewing gum may help speed the process of your bowel function returning to normal.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incision
Recovery takes about 1-2 weeks.
When you return home:
- Rest, and take it easy for 1-2 weeks.
- Do not exercise or do heavy lifting for one or more weeks as directed by your doctor.
- Gradually increase activities as approved by your doctor.
- Care for the incision as instructed to prevent infection.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision sites
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
- Increased abdominal pain
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Passing blood in the stool
If you think you have 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
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Appendectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/app.ashx. Updated 2014. Accessed January 10, 2018.
Appendicitis in adolescents and adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115548/Appendicitis-in-adolescents-and-adults. Updated October 25, 2017. Accessed January 10, 2018.
Patient information for laparoscopic appendectomy surgery from SAGES. Society of American Gastroenterolotical and Endoscopic Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.sages.org/publications/patient-information/patient-information-for-laparoscopic-appendectomy-from-sages. Updated March 1, 2015. Accessed January 10, 2018.
Short V, Herbert G, Perry R, et al. Chewing gum for postoperative recovery of gastrointestinal function. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;2:CD006506.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: 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.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 3/23/2015