Location Map FAQ
St. Maarten Medical Center
Appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix. The operation is done to remove an infected appendix. An infected appendix, called appendicitis, can burst and release bacteria and stool into the abdomen. The appendix is a small pouch that hangs from the large intestine where the small and large intestine join. If the appendix becomes blocked and swollen, bacteria can grow in the pouch. The blocked opening can be from an illness, thick mucous, hard stool or a tumor.
Pain can be different for each person because the appendix can touch different organs. This can be confusing and make it difficult to diagnose appendicitis.
Most often pain starts around the navel and then moves to the right lower abdomen. The pain is often worse with walking or talking. During pregnancy, the appendix sits higher in the abdomen, so the pain may seem to come from the upper abdomen. In the elderly, symptoms are often not as noticeable because there is less swelling.
Other medical disorders have symptoms similar to appendicitis, such as inflammatory bowel disease, pelvic inflammatory disease, gastroenteritis, urinary tract infection, right lower lobe pneumonia, Meckel’s diverticulum, intussusception, and constipation.
Abdominal ultrasound or abdominal CT scan—Checks for an enlarged appendix.
Complete blood count (CBC)—A blood test to check for infection.
Rectal exam—Checks for tenderness on the right side and for any rectal problems that could be causing the abdominal pain.
Pelvic exam—May be done in young women to check for pain from gynecological problems like pelvic inflammation or infection.
Urinalysis—Checks for an infection in your urine, which can cause abdominal pain.
Electrocardiogram (ECG)—Sometimes done in the older adult to make sure heart problems are not the cause of pain.
Laparoscopic appendectomy—The appendix is removed with instruments
placed into small abdominal incisions.
Open appendectomy—The appendix is removed through an incision in the lower right
Surgery is the standard treatment for an acute (sudden) infection of the appendix. Antibiotic treatment might be used as an alternative for specific patients and children.
An appendectomy will remove the infected organ and relieve pain. Once the appendix is removed,
appendicitis will not happen again. The risk of not having surgery is the appendix can burst,
resulting in an abdominal infection called peritonitis.
Possible complications include abscess, infection of the wound or abdomen, intestinal blockage,
hernia at the incision, pneumonia, risk of premature delivery (if you are pregnant), and death.
Acute appendicitis is an urgent problem requiring surgical consultation.
This technique is the most common for simple appendicitis. The surgeon
will make 1 to 3 small incisions in the abdomen.
A port (nozzle) is inserted into one of the slits, and carbon dioxide gas inflates the abdomen. This
process allows the surgeon to see the appendix more easily. A laparoscope is inserted through
another port. It looks like a telescope with a light and camera on the end so the surgeon can see
inside the abdomen. Surgical instruments are placed in the other small openings and used to remove
the appendix. The area is washed with sterile fluid to decrease the risk of further infection.
The surgeon makes an incision about 2 to 4 inches long in the lower right side of the abdomen. The
appendix is removed from the intestine. The area is washed with sterile fluid to decrease the risk
of further infection. A small drainage tube may be placed going from the inside to the outside of
the abdomen. The drain is usually removed in the hospital. The wound is closed with absorbable
sutures and covered with glue-like bandage or Steri-Strips.
If you only have some of the signs of appendicitis, your surgeon may treat you with antibiotics and watch for improvement. In an uncomplicated appendicitis, antibiotics may be effective, but there is a higher chance of reoccurrence.
You will meet with your anesthesia provider before the operation. Let him or her know if you have allergies, neurologic disease (epilepsy or stroke), heart disease, stomach problems, lung disease (asthma, emphysema), endocrine disease (diabetes, thyroid conditions), loose teeth, or if you smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs, or take any herbs or vitamins. Let your surgical team know if you smoke and plan to quit. Quitting decreases your complication rate. Resources to help you quit can be found at facs.org/quit smoking.
You will not be allowed to eat or drink while you are being evaluated for appendectomy. Not eating or drinking reduces your risk of complications from anesthesia.
The anesthesia may cause you to feel different for 1 or 2 days. Do not drive, drink alcohol, or make any big decisions for at least 2 days.
The amount of pain is different for each person. Some people need only 1 to 3 doses of pain control medication, while others need more.
If you have: