Appendectomy—Open SurgeryEn Español (Spanish Version)
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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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Complications are rare but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have an appendectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications which may include:
- Damage to other organs
- Reaction to anesthesia
Some risk factors that make complications more likely include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood and urine tests
- X-rays—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of the inside the body
- Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to find the appendix and other organs
- CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
Antibiotics will be started right away. Since 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
- You will be asked to get out of bed about six hours after 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 resume your normal preoperative diet as soon as possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- 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
- Fainting or dizziness
- Passing blood in the stool
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.
American College of Surgeons
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Family Physician
American College of Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.facs.org . Accessed July 22, 2009.
Discharge instructions for an appendectomy. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=16topicID=1034 . Updated November 2008. Accessed July 22, 2009.
Schwartz S. Principles of Surgery . 7th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2001.
Townsend C, Beauchamp DR, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery . 16th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2001.
Townsend C, Beauchamp DR, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery . 17th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2003.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: 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 September 2010 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last updated Updated: 6/2/2011
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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