Everything you need to know about an appendectomy

What is an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is surgery performed to remove the appendix which is usually located on the right side of the lower abdomen. It is usually emergency surgery done to treat appendicitis (inflamed appendix) which, if left untreated, can rupture and cause a potentially life threatening complication.

Why might you need an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is carried out if it is determined that you have appendicitis which happens when the appendix becomes blocked and infected due to the invasion of intestinal bacteria. If the appendix has become inflamed it may be causing you to experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, constipation or pain. You will usually experience a sharp pain that begins in the centre of the abdomen that later moves to the right side and intensifies over time. It is important to note also that not all these symptoms may be present for appendicitis to occur so investigative procedures and tests may need to be carried out to reach a diagnosis.

General procedure

An appendectomy can be performed by an open appendectomy whereby an incision is made through the skin and the underlying tissue to access and remove the appendix or by laparoscopic surgery where three much smaller incisions are made to allow for the insertion of specific tools, gas is gently pumped into the abdominal cavity to allow for easier examination and removal of the appendix. While a laparoscopic appendectomy is preferred, the type of appendectomy a person has depends on the severity of the appendicitis. Your care team will discuss your options with you.

Post-op care

After the procedure, your vitals will be monitored to ensure that they stay within their acceptable parameters. Your wound and pain level will also be monitored. If you have experienced an uncomplicated appendectomy you should be able to get up and move relatively soon after the surgery and can expect to be discharged two to three days after the procedure. Early movement after the procedure is encourage however care should be taken so as to not strain the abdominal wall whilst it is still healing.