Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix, typically performed to cure appendicitis. It is one of the most common emergency surgical procedures.
The appendix is a small, pouch-like cavity attached to your large intestine in the lower right part of your abdomen.
The exact purpose of the appendix has been a subject of speculation for centuries. It is now believed to be a storage area for the normal flora (bacteria). It aids in recovery following episodes of diarrhea, inflammation, and infections of the small and large intestines.
Infection occurs when the opening of the appendix becomes clogged. This causes your appendix to become swollen and intensely painful. This is known as appendicitis.
The easiest and quickest way to treat appendicitis is to remove the appendix. Your appendix could burst if appendicitis is not treated immediately and effectively. This can cause the bacteria to spread into your abdomen and cause a serious infection (peritonitis).
Symptoms of appendicitis include:
All surgeries carry the risk of rare complications, including excessive bleeding and infection. However, the risks associated with an appendectomy are far lower than the risk of leaving an infected appendix untreated. Left untreated, the appendix can burst and spread infection throughout your abdomen. This can be fatal.
First, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and perform a physical examination. During the exam, the doctor will gently push against your abdomen to pinpoint the source of your abdominal pain.
Your doctor may order blood tests and imaging tests if appendicitis is caught early. These could include CT scans or an abdominal X-ray. However, your doctor may skip these tests if he or she believes an emergency appendectomy is necessary.
Before surgery, you’ll be hooked up to an IV so you can receive fluids and medication. You’ll likely be put under general anesthesia so that you will be unconscious during surgery.
There are two types of appendectomy: open and laparoscopic. The kind of operation your doctor chooses depends on several factors, including the extent of the infection and your medical history.
During an open appendectomy, a surgeon makes one incision into the lower right portion of your abdomen. Your appendix is removed and the wound is closed.
Reasons your doctor may choose an open appendectomy include:
During a laparoscopic appendectomy, the surgeon accesses the appendix through several small incisions in your abdomen. The surgeon uses narrow, tube-like instruments to operate on the infected organ. A camera in one of the tubes allows the surgeon to see inside your abdomen to guide the instruments.
After the appendix is removed, the small incisions are cleaned, closed, and dressed. The risk of infection from laparoscopic appendectomy is lower than from open appendectomy because the incision wounds are smaller.
An appendectomy is a fairly simple and routine procedure.
Full recovery from an appendectomy takes about four to six weeks. During this time, your doctor will probably recommend that you limit your physical activity to allow your body to heal.
You may also be prescribed antibiotics after the surgery to lower your risk of infection.
Written by: Brian Krans
Published on: Aug 15, 2012
Medically reviewed : George Krucik, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.
Members pay $8 for Regal ePremiere tickets purchased online. Conditions apply.
Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder mobile app.
Go Digital with RealPad. Connect, play and share plus free 24/7 live customer support.
Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
Register at a location near you to keep your driving skills sharp.
Find opportunities to volunteer in your neighborhood.
NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon teams up with AARP Foundation.