Healthy Living

Everything You Need to Know About an Appendectomy

Everything You Need to Know About an Appendectomy

An appendectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the complete removal of the appendix. It is a common procedure that is performed to correct or treat appendicitis, which is a condition that is characterized by appendix inflammation. To understand what an appendectomy is, we will first briefly examine what the appendix is and how appendicitis affects it.

An appendix is a tiny organ attached at the end of your large intestine. It is a small, tube-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen. Although the main purpose of the appendix is still unknown, many believe that it can help one recover from colon and ileum infections, diarrhea, and inflammation. It may sound as if the functions of the appendix are very important, but the body can still function normally without it.

Why should I have an appendectomy?

If your appendix becomes swollen and inflamed, some fungi and bacteria may multiply inside leading to pus formation. The pus buildup on the appendix may cause a lot of pain on your stomach, which can extend to the lower right side of your abdomen. Walking and coughing can become problematic in such a condition. With an inflamed and painful appendix, you can experience diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

If you have the above symptoms, you may have appendicitis that would require medical attention. If such a condition is left untreated, the appendix may burst and release bacteria that are harmful to the gastrointestinal tract. A ruptured appendix can be a big problem that would require a longer stay in the hospital.

Appendectomy is the best treatment measure considered for appendicitis. It is very important to immediately remove the appendix before it bursts. If it is left to rupture, fecal particles and bacteria from the organ can spread to the abdomen, which can lead to a serious infection called as peritonitis. There is also a risk of developing an abscess if the appendix bursts. Both abscess and peritonitis are life-threatening conditions that would require immediate surgery. Appendectomy is a procedure, which many people undergo and quickly recover from. It usually comes with little or no complications.

Some of the symptoms of appendectomy you should know include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Tight abdominal muscles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Low-grade fever
  • Belly pain that starts at the bottom and spreads to the lower right side

Pain with appendicitis is mostly felt on the lower right side. However, with pregnant women, it may be felt on the upper right side of the abdomen. 

Preparation for an Appendectomy

Before an appendectomy, you should avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 8 hours before the procedure. It is very important to discuss with your doctor if you are taking prescribed medications or even over-the-counter drugs. Your doctor will tell you how you should use them before and after the operation.

You should also tell your doctor:

  • Whether you are pregnant or planning for a pregnancy
  • If you are allergic to anything such as anesthesia and latex
  • If you have a history of bleeding problems

You should also arrange for someone who will take care of you and drive you home after the operation since you may feel weak and drowsy due to the general anesthesia administered during the procedure. 

When you reach the hospital, your doctor will perform a physical examination and then ask you about your medical history. During the physical examination, the doctor will gently push your abdomen to determine the source of the abdominal pain. Your doctor will then order a blood test and imaging tests in case the appendicitis is painful at its early stages. These tests should not be performed if your doctor believes that you need an emergency appendectomy.

When the tests are completed and your doctor decides that you should have an appendectomy, you will be put under general anesthesia, which means that you will be asleep all throughout the procedure. Sometimes, you may be given local anesthesia to help numb the area of operation. With local anesthesia, you will be awake, but the whole procedure is painless.

Types of Appendectomy

There are two types of appendectomy: open and laparoscopic. The type of surgery chosen by your doctor depends on factors such as medical history and the severity of your appendicitis.

1. Open Appendectomy

In open appendectomy, your doctor or surgeon makes an incision on the lower right side of your abdomen. The surgeon completely removes the appendix and then closes the wounds with dissolvable sutures. This surgical procedure helps your doctor clean the abdominal cavity in case your appendix has ruptured before the operation.

An open appendectomy is recommended mostly when your appendix has already ruptured and infected other nearby organs. It is also preferred for people who had an abdominal surgery in the past.

2. Laparoscopic Appendectomy

In a laparoscopic appendectomy, your doctor will first access your appendix with the use of a laparoscope inserted through small incisions made on your abdomen. A laparoscope is a small, narrow gadget, which is attached to a computer monitor that can give your surgeon a clear view of your appendix during the operation. Another small, narrow tube called cannula is inserted into your abdomen to inflate it with carbon (IV) oxide gas. This gas will allow your surgeon to clearly see and monitor the appendix.

Once your abdomen has been inflated, a laparoscope is inserted through an incision made on the lower abdomen. The camera at the end of the laparoscope helps display images on the monitor. This allows your doctor to see your abdomen during the operation. When the appendix is found, it is tied off with stitches and then removed. The incisions made during the operation are then cleaned and dressed to keep off infections.

A laparoscopic appendectomy is considered the best appendectomy procedure for the treatment of appendicitis, especially in older and overweight patients. It has fewer risks compared to an open appendectomy and has a shorter recovery period.

Risks Associated with Appendectomy

An appendectomy is a simple surgical procedure with fewer risks compared to other types of surgery. The risks include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blocked bowels
  • Injury to the neighboring organs

Bottom Line

An appendectomy is an emergency surgical procedure used for the treatment of appendicitis. This procedure has fewer risks compared to the risks posed by untreated appendicitis. It should be immediately performed to prevent peritonitis and abscesses, which are life-threatening.