Thumbnail image of: Digestive System: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Laparoscopy: Illustration


What is an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is surgery to remove the appendix. The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch where the large and small intestines join. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. In most cases appendicitis is caused by a blockage of the opening of the appendix by a piece of bowel movement. Sometimes it is caused by infection in the digestive tract.

It is important to get treatment for appendicitis before the appendix ruptures. A rupture is a break or tear in the appendix. If an infected appendix breaks open, infection and bowel movement may spread inside the belly. This can cause a life-threatening infection called peritonitis. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is considered an emergency.

You can live a normal life without an appendix.

How is an appendectomy done?

Before the procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for an appendectomy. The consent form will state the reason you are having the procedure, what happens during the procedure, and what you may expect afterward.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, or illegal drugs (if any).
  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.

During the procedure:

  • You will be given a sedative through your IV to help you to relax.
  • You will be given medicines to prevent pain during your surgery. This is usually done with general anesthesia, which relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep. A breathing tube is usually put in your throat when you have general anesthesia.
  • You may have a small tube (catheter) placed into your bladder through the urethra (the opening from the bladder to the outside of the body) to drain and measure urine from the bladder.
  • Your surgeon will perform either open surgery or laparoscopic surgery.
    • If you have open surgery (a laparotomy):
      • Your surgeon will make a cut 2 to 3 inches long in your belly.
      • Your surgeon will find the appendix and remove it.
    • If you have laparoscopic surgery:
      • Instead of a cut 2 to 3 inches long, the surgeon will make very small cuts in your belly.
      • The surgeon will put a small lighted tube through the small cuts to find and remove the appendix.
  • If you have an infection, temporary tubes may be left to drain blood and fluid for a few days after surgery.
  • Your surgeon will close cuts made in your belly with sutures (stitches) or staples.

After the procedure:

  • You will be checked often by nursing staff.
  • Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • Your sutures and dressing will be checked regularly.
  • If you have a drainage tube, your dressings will be changed often.
  • For the first day or so after surgery, you may not be given anything to eat or drink. Then you will be allowed to have small amounts of water, later clear liquids, and then small amounts of solid food until you are able to have a regular diet.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Bloating or pain in your belly
    • Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Increased pain at the site of infection or surgery
    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound
    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you will need to stay in the hospital after an appendectomy is usually 3 days after you have the procedure.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-11-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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