An appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix. It’s a common emergency surgery that’s performed to treat appendicitis, an inflammatory condition of the appendix.

The appendix is a small, tube-shaped pouch attached to your large intestine. It’s located in the lower right side of your abdomen. The exact purpose of the appendix isn’t known. However, it’s believed that it may help us recover from diarrhea, inflammation, and infections of the small and large intestines. These may sound like important functions, but the body can still function properly without an appendix.

When the appendix becomes inflamed and swollen, bacteria can quickly multiply inside the organ and lead to the formation of pus. This buildup of bacteria and pus can cause pain around the belly button that spreads to the lower right section of the abdomen. Walking or coughing can make the pain worse. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If you have appendicitis, there is a serious risk your appendix may burst or rupture. This can happen as soon as 48 to 72 hours after you have symptoms. It can cause a severe, life-threatening infection called peritonitis in your belly.

Symptoms of appendicitis include:
  • Stomach pain that starts suddenly near the belly button and spreads to the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Abdominal Swelling
  • Rigid Abdominal Muscles
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Low-grade fever

Although pain from appendicitis typically occurs in the lower right side of the abdomen, pregnant women may have pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. This is because the appendix is higher during pregnancy.

What happens during an appendectomy?

In most cases an appendectomy is an emergency surgery and will require a hospital stay. You will have either an open appendectomy or a laparoscopic appendectomy. This will depend on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.

An appendectomy is done while you are given medicines to put you into a deep sleep (under general anesthesia).

Generally, the appendectomy follows this process:
  • You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that might get in the way during surgery.
  • You will be asked to remove your clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
  • An IV (intravenous) line will be put in your arm or hand.
  • You will be placed on the operating table on your back.
  • If there is a lot of hair at the surgical site, it may be clipped off.
  • A tube will be put down your throat to help you breathe. The anesthesiologist will check your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the surgery.
How is an appendectomy performed?

There are two types of appendectomy: open and laparoscopic. The type of surgery your doctor chooses depends on several factors, including the severity of your appendicitis and your medical history.

Open Appendectomy:

During an open appendectomy, a surgeon makes one incision in the lower right side of your abdomen. Your appendix is removed and the wound is closed with stiches. This procedure allows your doctor to clean the abdominal cavity if your appendix has burst.

Your doctor may choose an open appendectomy if your appendix has ruptured and the infection has spread to other organs. It’s also the preferred option for people who have had abdominal surgery in the past.

Laparoscopic Appendectomy:

During a laparoscopic appendectomy, a surgeon accesses the appendix through a few small incisions in your abdomen. A small, narrow tube called a cannula will then be inserted. The cannula is used to inflate your abdomen with carbon dioxide gas. This gas allows the surgeon to see your appendix more clearly.

Once the abdomen is inflated, an instrument called a laparoscope will be inserted through the incision. The laparoscope is a long, thin tube with a high-intensity light and a high-resolution camera at the front. The camera will display the images on a screen, allowing the surgeon to see inside your abdomen and guide the instruments. When the appendix is found, it will be tied off with stiches and removed. The small incisions are then cleaned, closed, and dressed.

Laparoscopic surgery is usually the best option for older adults and people who are overweight. It has fewer risks than an open appendectomy procedure, and generally has a shorter recovery time.

What are the risks of an appendectomy?

Some possible complications of an appendectomy include:

  • Bleeding
  • Wound infection
  • Infection and redness and swelling (inflammation) of the belly that can occur if the appendix bursts during surgery (peritonitis)
  • Blocked bowels
  • Injury to nearby organs

You may have other risks that are unique to you. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before surgery.

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