Your side may hurt so much that you call your doctor. Or maybe you go straight to the hospital emergency room. After your evaluation, your doctor may decide that you have appendicitis. If so, you will need surgery. Your health care provider will send you to a hospital room or take you right to the operating room. There, your medical team will prepare your for surgery.
You may receive fluids and antibiotics through an IV (intravenous) line. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any antibiotics or other medications. Before surgery, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will also talk to you. He or she will give you general anesthesia just before your appendectomy. This keeps you pain-free and allows you to sleep during the surgery.
The goal of surgery is to remove your appendix safely. In most cases, the surgery lasts from 30 minutes to an hour. If your appendix has burst or perforated releasing bacteria into the abdominal cavity, surgery may take longer. Your surgeon may use 1 of 2 techniques to reach your appendix. Your surgeon will discuss which is best for you:
Open surgery. Your surgeon makes 1 incision (several inches long) in your lower right side. He or she makes a bigger incision if your appendix has perforated.
Laparoscopic surgery.Your surgeon makes from 2 to 4 small incisions. One is near your bellybutton. The others are elsewhere on your abdomen. Your doctor inserts a laparoscope, a thin tube with a camera attached, through one of the incisions. The camera shows the inside of your abdomen on a monitor. This image helps guide the surgery. Your doctor inserts surgical tools into the other incisions.
In most cases, the surgeon closes the entire incision with stitches or staples. Your surgeon may place a temporary drain in the wound or in your abdomen. This helps cure or prevent infection. If your appendix perforated, your doctors may leave the outer layers of your incision open. Leaving the skin open prevents infection from forming under the skin. It may heal on its own, or be closed about 5 days later.
Most patients recover quickly after an appendectomy. You will likely be in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. If your appendix perforated, you may stay longer. After you return home, plan on a follow-up visit to the doctor in 1 to 2 weeks.
In most cases, you will drink liquids and walk on the day of your surgery. You will also receive pain medication. To help keep your lungs clear, a healthcare provider may teach you how to do breathing exercises.
To help control pain from surgery, take your medicines as directed. Avoid strenuous activity, heavy lifting, and driving until your surgeon says it is OK. As instructed, slowly resume your normal activities in 7 to 10 days.
Risks and complications can include the following:
Infection or bleeding from the incision site
Infection or swelling in the abdomen, or leakage of bowel material
Delayed return of bowel or intestinal function (bowel ileus) or bowel blockage
Problems from anesthesia
Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
Swelling, oozing, worsening pain, or unusual redness around the incision
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
Worsening abdominal pain
Severe diarrhea, bloating, or constipation
Nausea or vomiting