Appendectomy: Procedure, Recovery and Care

Recovery after an appendectomy is usually very fast. You'll only need to follow the advice indicated by the specialist.
Appendectomy: Procedure, Recovery and Care

Last update: 30 May, 2022

Acute appendicitis is simply the inflammation of a portion of the intestine known as the appendix. It’s a very common pathology that puts people’s lives in danger. Fortunately, the condition can be solved with a surgical procedure called an appendectomy.

Inflammation of the appendix can occur at any age, however, it’s more common in children and adolescents. In fact, it is the leading cause of abdominal surgery in children, according to some research.

What is an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove the appendix. It’s an outpatient procedure, quick and with few complications in most cases.

The operation can be performed in 2 different ways: through an open procedure or through a laparoscopy. The main difference between both techniques is the way the abdominal cavity is approached.

In the first case, a linear incision will be made in the abdomen, while in laparoscopy only 3 small holes are made.

Why is it performed?

The main reason for performing an appendectomy is the presence of acute appendicitis. As we have said before, appendicitis is the inflammation and infection of the appendix, which is a pinky-shaped sac located between the small intestine and the large intestine.

The idea of removing the appendix is to prevent the organ from rupturing and the infection from spreading through the abdomen, causing peritonitis or an abscess. People must identify the presence of this condition to avoid complications, so it’s essential to know the main symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain that starts in the upper part and then migrates to the lower right side.

An appendectomy may also be necessary if there’s a tumor in the appendix, although this is a rare event. Finally, the appendix can be removed in other pathologies, such as Crohn’s disease, in order to prevent misdiagnosis.

Appendix scar.
When an open appendectomy is performed, the scar that remains is usually quite noticeable, unlike with a laparoscopy.

Read this interesting article: Crohn’s Disease: Types and Management Tips

How is an appendectomy performed?

An appendectomy is surgery performed under general or spinal anesthesia. The difference between the two types is that the latter eliminates feeling from the waist down, while general anesthesia does so throughout the body.

In addition, hospital admission and multiple tests are required prior to the operation. The purpose of this is to confirm the presence of appendicitis and to verify the patient’s general condition.

The operation is performed quickly and lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. However, the procedure itself will depend on whether it’s an open or laparoscopic operation, so it’s best to explain each of them separately.

Open appendectomy

In an open appendectomy, a small incision is made in the lower right side of the abdomen to remove the appendix. The incision is approximately 5 centimeters (2 inches) in size and has a longitudinal orientation, in order to achieve better healing.

Once the incision is made and the appendix is located, the surgeon will proceed to cauterize the blood vessels, tie off and remove the organ. Then the cut portion of the intestine will be sutured and closed.

Unfortunately, an open appendectomy involves an invasive procedure in which there’s a greater manipulation of the area. Thus, recovery will be slower and scarring more evident.

Laparoscopic appendectomy

In laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon will only make 3 small 1-centimeter holes in the abdomen and insert tubes called trocars. The location of the holes can vary, although they are most often carried out in the navel, pelvis, and right side of the abdomen.

Before starting, carbon dioxide must be introduced to inflate the abdomen and improve the view of the organs. Then a small camera with a flashlight will be introduced through one of the trocars. Instruments to tie off and cut the appendix will be introduced through the other two holes.

For the past few years, laparoscopic surgery has been the first choice procedure for uncomplicated appendicitis. However, studies show that it’s also useful when perforations are present. In general terms, it’s less invasive and leaves more aesthetic results.

Possible risks

Both laparoscopic surgery and open appendectomy are invasive procedures and carry risks. One of the most common risks is related to general anesthesia.

Fortunately, complications arising from surgery are rare, so it’s considered a very safe procedure. Among the complications that may occur are the following:

  • Dehiscence or opening of the area where the appendix was located
  • Intra-abdominal or pelvic abscess
  • Bleeding during the operation
  • Postoperative constipation
  • Injury to nearby organs
  • Fistula formation
  • Wound infection

Recovery after surgery

Recovery after an appendectomy is quick. People are usually discharged from the hospital between 1 and 2 days after the procedure. However, everything will depend on how the patient is.

The first days after the operation you may feel pain in the area of the incision and notice the appearance of small bruises. However, this discomfort will disappear and it’ll be possible to resume normal daily activities between 1 week and 1 month later.

A boy in hospital.
Hospital discharge is quick most of the time and there are usually no serious complications from an appendectomy.

Aftercare

Care during the postoperative period is essential in order to promote healing and full recovery. The indications may vary depending on the procedure performed, but the main recommendations are the following:

  • Maintain rest during the first 7 days, avoiding strenuous activities and only taking short walks
  • Treat the wound at least every 2 days and remove the stitches between 8 and 10 days after the operation
  • Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water daily to prevent constipation
  • Maintain a soft diet or the one recommended by the specialist
  • Sleep on your back for the first 2 weeks
  • Apply pressure to the wound when you need to cough
  • Avoid driving for at least 3 weeks

A quick procedure with few risks

An appendectomy is simply a surgical procedure to remove the appendix. Although the main reason for the procedure is acute appendicitis, it’s also useful in other conditions.

Fortunately, both the procedure and the recovery are fast and people can resume their daily life in a short time. In addition, postoperative care is simple.

It might interest you...
Characteristics and Function of the Appendix
Step To Health
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Characteristics and Function of the Appendix

There's a general idea that the appendix is only a redoubt of human evolution and that it's ultimately useless but data shows otherwise.



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  • Jäntti S, Ponkilainen V, Kuitunen I, Hevonkorpi TP et al. Trends in appendicectomy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Br J Surg. 2021 Jan 27;108(1):e35-e36.
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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.