What Happens During an Appendectomy

Appendectomy is the name of the procedure that involves the removal of an inflamed or swollen appendix. Although common, it’s considered an emergency procedure because failure to remove the appendix can be life-threatening when it bursts.

Appendicitis Symptoms

Appendectomy is performed when the patient shows signs of appendicitis, which usually includes the following symptoms: fever, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, painful urination, frequent urination, tenderness on the McBurney’s point, and pain in the bellybutton area or the lower part of the abdomen.

The appendix is inflamed due to bacterial infection and a buildup of pus, bacteria, stool, mucus, or a foreign body.

Appendectomy Procedures

Patients who are about to undergo appendectomy are given instructions about the procedure. The inflamed appendix must be removed within 48 to 72 of the appearance of the symptoms and is treated as an emergency surgery. The individual is advised not to eat anything 8 hours before the procedure and is given medications and antibiotics through an IV drip.

The patient will be under anesthesia during the procedure, which might last up to an hour.

These are two types of appendectomy performed today:

  • Laparoscopic Appendectomy – This procedure uses a laparoscope (video camera) inside the patient’s body through a small incision. Carbon dioxide gas is used to make your abdomen swell, then the camera will locate the appendix so that small incisions can be made in the area to remove the appendix. This procedure, however, can cause more pain and scarring than open appendectomy.
  • Open Appendectomy – The surgeon creates an incision in the abdomen to look for the appendix, which is then tied and cut off from the large intestine. If the appendix ruptures, the abdomen is washed with salt water.

After the procedure, the appendix is sent to a laboratory for testing, then the incisions are closed with stitches.

Recover and Complications

Although the complications of both types of procedures are minor, there is still a risk of infection, bleeding, inflammation, blocked bowels, and injury to other organs. In some cases, peritonitis or the rupture of the appendix can occur during surgery and will cause infection and swelling.

Laparoscopic appendectomy has a shorter recovery time. You will be given medications if there is pain and will be allowed to eat food a few hours after the procedure.

You should watch out for any of the following symptoms while recovering: fever and chills, drainage and bleeding, pain, vomiting and loss of appetite, inability to hold down food, cramps and belly pain, watery diarrhea for three days or no bowel movement for two days, and shortness of breath. Follow-up checkups are required within the next 2 weeks to determine if you are recovering well.

You might also need to stay away from strenuous activities for four to six weeks until the doctor tells you you’ve fully recovered.

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