Healthy Living

Appendectomy Aftercare

Appendectomy Aftercare

Key Takeaways

  • For the period before a full recovery, occasional pain may be experienced.
  • To manage one's pain, the doctor will most likely give you painkillers. 
  • A bed rest may be necessary to accelerate the healing process.

An appendectomy is a type of surgery that is performed to remove the appendix, a vestigial pouch-like organ that is located in contact with the large intestines. It is finger-like in shape. The importance or function that is carried out by this structure is not very clear, hence, the term "vestigial structure".

As a result of it being vestigial, when the appendix causes any complications or health problems, its removal is often preferred. A disorder that causes inflammation to the appendix is called an appendicitis.

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix is filled with pus, which is a composition of dead cells from an infection. The infection of the appendix is seen as the root cause of appendicitis along with blockage of the appendix.

The process of removing the appendix through surgery is known as an appendectomy. Appendectomy is the standard treatment measure for appendicitis. This surgery has not shown any health challenges that are long-term.

Immediately following the appendectomy procedure, the patient is taken to a care unit known as post-anesthesia care unit or PACU. Here, the effects of anesthesia for the appendix removal surgery is allowed to wear out.

Additionally, the nurses at this unit closely monitor the patient. They usually monitor the following:

  • heart rate
  • body temperature
  • breathing habit or pattern of the patient

Vital signs become stable as soon as the effect of the anesthesia wears off. A transfer from the post-anesthesia care unit may take place after the stability of the vital signs. Further recovery may be allowed in another hospital room.

The patient may expect to leave the hospital after a period as short as just a single day or two after the surgery. However, for a complete recovery, additional time is necessary, but again, more time for recovery does not have to take place at the hospital facility. The time taken for a complete recovery may only be for a couple of weeks.

For the period before a full recovery, occasional pain may be experienced. To manage one's pain, the doctor will most likely give you painkillers. The type of painkillers that are usually prescribed may include the following:

  • oxycodone
  • morphine
  • hydromorphone

It is also advised that you keep away from extreme or strenuous activities for up to a week or two. A bed rest may be necessary to accelerate the healing process.

Care After an Appendectomy

The recovery procedure as well as care to be given to the patient is usually dependent on whether the appendix had ruptured or not.

No Evidence of Rupture

If the appendix of the patient had not burst open, the time that is taken to recover is relatively very fast. Clear liquids are offered the morning immediately after surgery.

Getting back on track regarding one's diet is more like weaning of a baby, where the baby gradually moves from feeding on breast milk to soft foods. Eventually, the baby is introduced to more solid foods until he or she can already take all types of food.

In an appendectomy recovery, the same process happens. When the patient graduates from the initial clear fluids, he or she will be allowed to consume solid foods. However, this is only the case where the patient is able to take the initial fluids. The intravenous fluid is taken off once the patient begins eating and drinking.

As early as the next morning after surgery or even the same day of the surgery, minimal physical activities such as climbing out of bed may not be a big challenge.

In some patients, painkillers may be necessary in order to relieve the pain experienced from the cut or around the cut in the abdominal region. Large incisions that are as a result of open surgery mainly cause a lot of pain as compared to smaller cuts that result from a laparoscopic surgery.

The hospital staff, usually nurses, monitor the healing progress of the incisions by closely checking for any signs of infection.

Care at Home

The careful monitoring and observation of the incision are passed on from the nurses to the patient. The area around the cut is expected to be normally dry and should have a completely closed wound. Anything that is observed around the incision area that tends to be different from a normal surgical wound should never be ignored. Contact your physician as soon as possible to notify him or her of these negative developments.

If you underwent an open surgery, a scar may be left behind on the lower right side of your abdomen that may be a few inches in length. In a laparoscopy, the scars are very small. However, you should not worry about the scars as they usually fade away with time.

A Ruptured Appendix

Recovery from an appendectomy where the appendix had burst open takes a considerably longer time when compared to cases where the rupture had not taken place. The reason is that other tissues near the appendix may have been affected by the appendicitis after the rupture of the appendix. For this reason, it also takes time to treat the affected areas.

The patient spends a longer period in the hospital, which may take up to four days or even longer if other complications may arise.

Pus is drained from the infected region using a drain until there is no more pus draining. This draining is closely supervised by the hospital nurses. Along with the draining, antibiotics are administered to the patient during this time at the hospital.

Care at Home

The patient continues on taking the antibiotics even upon being discharged from the hospital. Most of the time, the antibiotics are orally taken after being discharged.

The apparatus used to drain the pus and gauze pack should remain intact and proper care should be observed. Changes in the drain such as a change in color, consistency, amount, or an increased in drainage should be reported to the physician.

Bottom Line

The time taken after an appendectomy procedure to full recovery is relatively short. During this time, intensive care and close monitoring should be undertaken, especially in cases where the appendix had ruptured before the surgery.