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Acute Care Advisor 2017.3 Copyright © 2017 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.

What is an appendectomy?


An appendectomy is surgery to remove the appendix. The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch where the large and small intestines join. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. In most cases, appendicitis is caused by a blockage of the opening of the appendix. Sometimes it is caused by infection in the digestive tract.


It is important to get treatment for appendicitis before the appendix ruptures. A rupture is a break or tear in the appendix. If an infected appendix breaks open, infection and bowel movement may spread inside the belly. This can cause a life-threatening infection called peritonitis. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is considered an emergency.


You can live a normal life without an appendix.

How is an appendectomy done?


Before the procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for an appendectomy. The consent form will state the reason you are having the procedure, what happens during the procedure, and what you may expect afterward.

  • There is risk with every treatment or procedure. Talk to your healthcare provider for complete information about whether any of these risks apply to you:

    • Anesthesia problems

    • Bleeding

    • Blood clots

    • Infection

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription medicine, herbal remedies, or recreational or illegal drugs.

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.


During the procedure:

  • You will be given a sedative through your IV to help you to relax.

  • You will be given medicine called anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain. General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and puts you into a deep sleep. It also keeps you from remembering the operation. While you are asleep you will have a tube in your throat to help you breathe and to make sure you are getting enough oxygen. The tube may be removed before you wake up after the surgery.

  • You may have a small tube (catheter) placed into your bladder to drain and measure urine.

  • Your surgeon will perform either open surgery or laparoscopic surgery.

    • If you have open surgery (a laparotomy):

      • Your surgeon will make a cut 2 to 3 inches long in your belly.

      • Your surgeon will remove the appendix.

    • If you have laparoscopic surgery:

      • Instead of a cut 2 to 3 inches long, the surgeon will make very small cuts in your belly.

      • The surgeon will put a small lighted tube through the small cuts remove the appendix.

  • If you have an infection, temporary tubes may be left to drain blood and fluid for a few days after surgery.

  • Your surgeon will close cuts made in your belly with sutures (stitches) or staples.


After the procedure:

  • You will be checked often by nursing staff.

  • Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.

  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.

  • Your sutures and dressing will be checked regularly.

  • If you have a drainage tube, your dressings will be changed often.

  • For the first day or so after surgery, you may not be given anything to eat or drink. Then you will be allowed to have small amounts of water, later clear liquids, and then small amounts of solid food until you are able to have a regular diet.

  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:

    • Treat pain

    • Treat or prevent an infection

    • Treat or prevent side effects such as nausea or constipation

    • Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement

  • Your provider may recommend other types of therapy to help relieve pain, other symptoms, or side effects of treatment.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:

    • Bloating or pain in your belly

    • Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems

    • Dizziness or lightheadedness

    • Increased pain at the site of infection or surgery

    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound

    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.

  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?


How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors. The average time to stay in the hospital after an appendectomy for about 3 days after you have the procedure.


US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Appendicitis. Updated November 13, 2014. Accessed November 2016.
Goldman L and Schafer A. 2012. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine (24th ed), 144, 921-928. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.
Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL. 2012. Sabiston textbook of surgery, 19th ed. Elsevier.
US Department of Health & Human Services. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2012 National and regional estimates on hospital use for all patients from the HCUP nationwide inpatient sample. Accessed July 22, 2014.


Developed by RelayHealth.

Published by RelayHealth.

Produced in Cork, Ireland.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.