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Appendectomy


Alternative Names:

Appendix removal

Why the Procedure Is Performed:

An appendectomy is done for appendicitis. The condition can be hard to diagnose, especially in children, older people, and women of childbearing age.

Most often, the first symptom is pain around your belly button.

  • The pain may be mild at first, but it becomes sharp and severe.
  • The pain often moves into your right lower abdomen and becomes more focused in this area.

Other symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fever (usually not very high)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced appetite

If you have symptoms of appendicitis, seek medical help right away. Do not use heating pads, enemas, laxatives, or other home treatments to try and relieve symptoms.

Your health care provider will examine your abdomen and rectum. Other tests may be done.

  • Blood tests, including a white blood cell count (WBC), may be done to check for infection.
  • When the diagnosis is not clear, the doctor may order a CT scan or ultrasound to make sure the appendix is the cause of the problem.

There are no actual tests to confirm that you have appendicitis. Other illnesses can cause the same or similar symptoms.

The goal is to remove an infected appendix before it breaks open (ruptures). After reviewing your symptoms and the results of the physical exam and medical tests, your surgeon will decide whether you need surgery.

Even when the surgeon finds that the appendix is not infected, it will be removed to prevent future problems.

Risks:

Risks of anesthesia include the following:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing

Risks of any surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Other risks of an appendectomy after a ruptured appendix include:

  • Buildup of pus, which may need draining and antibiotics
  • Longer hospital stays
  • Side effects from medications
After the Procedure:

Patients tend to recover quickly after a simple appendectomy. Most patients leave the hospital in 1 to 2 days after surgery. You can go back to your normal activities within 2 to 4 weeks after leaving the hospital.

Patients who have the appendix removed through small surgical cuts tend to recover and get back to their daily activities faster.

Recovery is slower and more complicated if the appendix has broken open or an abscess has formed.

Living without an appendix causes no known health problems.

References:

Wolfe JM, Henneman PL. Acute appendicitis. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 91.

Howell JM, Eddy OL, Lukens TW, et al.; American College of Emergency Physicians. Clinical policy: Critical issues in the evaluation and management of emergency department patients with suspected appendicitis. Ann Emerg Med. 2010;55:71-116.


Review Date: 5/15/2013
Reviewed By: John A. Daller, MD, PhD., Department of Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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