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 operation to treat appendicitis. Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. It can be caused by an infection or obstruction.
Complications are rare but no procedure is completely free of risk. Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some risk factors that make complications more likely include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
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 with a temporary breathing tube in place.
Description of the Procedure
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 (tube) 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.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. You may be given medicine to manage any pain.
Average Hospital Stay
You may be in the hospital for 0-3 days. If the appendix has ruptured, expect to stay for several days or more than a week.
At the Hospital
Recovery takes about 4-6 weeks. When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Surgeons
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Family Physician
Appendicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 17, 2012. Accessed November 7, 2012.
Discharge instructions for an appendectomy. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/perc-about. Updated September 26, 2012. Accessed November 7, 2012.
Townsend C, Beauchamp DR, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 17th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2003.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com: 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.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD