Healthy Living

Appendectomy Aftercare

Appendectomy Aftercare

What is an Appendectomy?

The appendix is a pouch-like organ situated in the lower right abdomen in the first part of the large intestine. The importance or function that is carried out by this structure is not very clear, hence it is referred to as a "vestigial structure". When the appendix causes any complications or health problems, its removal is often preferred and this is done through a type of surgery that is called appendectomy.

A disorder that causes inflammation of the appendix is called 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 after the appendectomy procedure, the patient is taken to a care unit known as post-anesthesia care unit or PACU. Here, the effects of anesthesia given for the appendix removal surgery are allowed to wear out. Additionally, the nurses in this unit closely monitor the patient. They usually monitor the following:

  • Heart rate
  • Body temperature
  • Breathing habit or pattern of the patient

As soon as the vital signs stabilize, which usually happens once the effect of the anesthesia wears off, the patient may be transferred from the post-anesthesia care unit to another hospital room for further recovery.

The patient may expect to leave the hospital after a period as short as just a single day or two after the surgery. However, that doesn't mean the patient has recovered completely and he/she will still need some more time to resume his normal routine, but this recovery can happen at home with proper care and observation. The time taken for a complete recovery may only be 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. 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 less. 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. Over a period of time, more solid foods are introduced in the baby's diet until he or she is comfortable with all types of foods. The same process is followed with a patient recovering from an appendectomy. The patient is initially given only clear fluids and then slowly, he or she will be graduated to solid foods, provided 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.

Some patients may need to take painkillers for a few days to alleviate the pain experienced from the cut or around the cut in the abdominal region. Large incisions that are a result of open surgery 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.

A Ruptured Appendix

Recovery from an appendectomy in cases where the appendix had burst open usually takes longer when compared to cases where the rupture had not taken place. In most cases when the appendix ruptures, chances are that other tissues around the appendix may have been affected as well. For this reason, it also takes time to treat the affected areas.

The patient spends a longer time in the hospital, which may take up to four days or even longer, if other complications 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 and the patient is also given antibiotics.

Care at Home

The careful monitoring and observation of the incisions is passed on from the nurses to the patient. The area around the cut is expected to be dry and should have a completely closed wound. Keep a close eye on the area around the incision and if you notice anything different from a normal surgical wound, 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.

The patient is given a course of antibiotics which should be completed at home after being discharged from the hospital. Most of the time, the antibiotics are taken orally 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 increase 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.

Key Takeaways

  • The time that is taken to recover from appendectomy is relatively less in cases where the appendix had not burst open as compared to cases where the rupture had taken place.
  • Occasional pain may be experienced, for the period before a full recovery and the doctor will most likely give you painkillers to manage the pain. 
  • Once discharged, the patient should carefully monitor and observe the incisions taking proper care. Any changes in the drain or anything around the incision that differs from a normal surgical wound should be reported to the physician.