What Is an Appendectomy and What Is It Like?

December 16, 2021 1:42 pm Published by

The appendix is one of the body’s most overlooked structures. One of the reasons is that it’s still unclear whether this small, abdominal organ has a purpose, although a 2017 study found that it may not be useless. Still, the only time you’re likely to think of your appendix is if you develop appendicitis and need an appendectomy—surgical removal of the appendix.

Who Needs an Appendectomy?

Appendectomy is the most common treatment for appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix. Up to 9% of people may develop appendicitis during their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Appendicitis can cause pain around your belly button. In addition, this condition can lead to:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Most importantly, appendicitis can be life-threatening if the appendix leaks or bursts.

If you develop mild appendicitis, antibiotics may be the only treatment you need. In most cases, however, appendectomy is the best option. Wondering how you’ll fare without your appendix? Don’t be concerned. Your body doesn’t need it to function, and its absence won’t cause long-term complications for your health.

Risks and Benefits of Appendix Removal

Like any surgery, appendectomy has risks and benefits. The most important benefit is, of course, curing appendicitis. In addition, appendectomy is an effective procedure with a low risk of complications. Antibiotics, on the other hand, allow some patients to avoid an operation but are less definitive than surgery. In other words, removal of the appendix may still be necessary if medications don’t work.

Risks of appendectomy include:

  • Bleeding or blood clots
  • Breathing problems
  • Infection
  • Medication reactions

If you’ve been diagnosed with appendicitis, discuss the pros and cons of surgery and antibiotics with your physician to determine the right treatment for you.

What to Expect From Surgery

General surgeons perform appendectomies through a large incision in the abdomen (known as an open procedure) or several small ones (laparoscopy). Laparoscopic appendectomy is becoming more common because it’s minimally invasive. As a result, this approach may lead to less pain after surgery, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery.

An anesthesiologist will administer general anesthesia before you undergo your appendectomy. Once you’re asleep, if the surgeon is using a laparoscopic approach, he or she will:

  1. Make a small incision below the belly button and send gas into the abdomen to expand it. This provides more room to operate.
  2. Insert a small camera to see inside the abdomen on a monitor and determine where to make two or three more incisions.
  3. Take out the appendix.
  4. Close the incisions.

You may be able to go home the same day or the next day.

After an Appendectomy

You’ll need to limit exercise for about a week after laparoscopic surgery or two weeks after open surgery. You won’t need to follow a special diet. You can eat the foods you usually eat. Over-the-counter medications can help with surgical site pain, which is normal. However, notify your physician if the pain is severe or long-lasting, or if you experience other symptoms.

Need surgery? Trust your care to Magnolia Regional Health Center, where our surgical services feature an experienced team that provides a variety of minimally invasive procedures. On average, our surgeons perform more than 11,000 operations each year.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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