What is an appendectomy?

An inflammed or ruptured appendix may be removed through an incision in the abdomen.
An inflammed or ruptured appendix may be removed through an incision in the abdomen.

Appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix. It is most often performed as an emergency surgery for appendicitis. Occasionally while a patient undergoes an abdominal surgery for other reasons, the appendix might be removed to prevent possible future appendicitis.

What is an appendix?

The vermiform appendix is a finger-shaped sac attached to the cecum, the beginning part of the colon, in the lower right abdomen. The appendix produces a protein that helps fight infection, however, its presence does not appear to be vital for an adult. Other parts of the body take over its function when it is removed.

Why is an appendectomy performed?

An appendectomy is performed when the appendix is inflamed or ruptured causing acute pain, fever, nausea and other symptoms.

What are the types of appendectomy?

Appendectomy might be:

  • Open or conventional surgery: performed with an incision of about 2 to 4 inches that enables the surgeon to view and gain access to the appendix.
  • Laparoscopic surgery: minimally invasive with 3 tiny incisions of about a quarter to a half inch. The surgeon performs the operation using a laparoscope, a tube fitted with a video camera, inserted through the incision, with tiny surgical tools.

Laparoscopic surgery has certain advantages over open surgery such as

  • shorter hospital stay
  • quicker healing
  • less post-surgery pain
  • less scarring

The surgeon may opt for an open surgery or decide to convert a laparoscopic surgery into an open one in certain situations including:

How is an appendectomy performed?

A general surgeon performs an appendectomy under general anesthesia, and the procedure may entail hospital stay.

Preparation

  • The patient is likely to have acute pain and nausea, so the doctor might immediately administer painkillers, antibiotics for infection and medicine to control the nausea.
  • The patient must avoid eating or drinking anything 8 hours prior to the surgery.
  • The patient must check with the surgeon before taking any regular medication.
  • The patient must inform the surgeon of any medical conditions and allergies, or if pregnant.

Procedure

  • An anesthesiologist administers anesthesia and monitors the patient’s vital functions during the surgery.
  • The surgeon makes one or more incisions, depending on the type of surgery, in the lower right part of the abdomen where the appendix is located.
  • In an open surgery, the surgeon
    • cuts and opens the abdominal muscle and membrane
    • removes the appendix and sutures the opening in the colon left from the removal
    • washes the abdomen with saline to clean out the abdominal cavity in case of an appendix rupture
    • sutures the abdominal membrane and muscle
    • may attach a tube to drain fluids
  • In a laparoscopic surgery the surgeon
    • may use carbon dioxide to inflate the abdomen,
    • finds and cuts the appendix with the aid of tiny surgical tools inserted through a laparoscope
    • releases the gas through the cuts
    • closes the incisions with stitches or staples
    • may attach a tube to drain fluids

Post-surgery

  • The patient is brought out of anesthesia, taken to the recovery room, administered pain medication and monitored till vitals are stable.
  • The removed appendix is sent for testing.
  • The patient may be discharged the same day or the next day depending on the type of surgery, unless there is serious infection.
  • The patient must follow diet restrictions for a few days and avoid strenuous activity.

SLIDESHOW

Appendicitis: Symptoms, Signs, Causes, Appendectomy in Detail See Slideshow

How long does it take to recover from an appendectomy?

With a laparoscopic surgery, a patient is often able to resume normal activities in one to three weeks. An open surgery may require about two to four weeks for recovery. With a ruptured appendix, it may take up to six weeks or more.

Is appendectomy a major surgery?

Appendectomy is a common emergency surgery widely performed all over the world. It lasts for about an hour, and recovery is generally quick for both the open and laparoscopic surgery.

What are the side effects of an appendectomy?

Appendectomy is one of the safest surgical procedures, however; it carries a few risks and possible complications including:

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Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2020
References
Medscape Reference
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