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What's it like: To have an appendectomy

Most people get an appendectomy because they're suffering from appendicitis, meaning their appendix is swelling and could possibly burst. So what's it like to have one?
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: September 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm •  Published: September 23, 2012

Why would someone get an appendectomy?

Most people get an appendectomy because they're suffering from appendicitis, meaning their appendix is swelling and could possibly burst. Appendicitis is most common in people younger than 30.

The appendix is attached to the large intestine, located in the lower right area of your abdomen, not far from your belly button. It has no known function, so having it removed likely will not affect your quality of life.

In rare circumstances, a doctor will perform an appendectomy because someone has a tumor, sometimes cancerous, in or around the appendix. Also, women, in rare circumstances, could suffer from endometriosis of the appendix, irregular growth of the cells that line the uterus.

The cause of appendicitis isn't always clear. Also, it can be hard to distinguish whether you have appendicitis or indigestion. If you're suffering from appendicitis, you won't feel well, and you will have a pain that will slowly move to the right lower abdomen. You will probably vomit and feel nauseous.

Unlike indigestion, which can cause a cramping pain, appendicitis can cause constant pain. You probably will lose your appetite.

If you or your family member is concerned you're suffering from appendicitis, it's best to seek medical attention. Research shows the risk of the appendix rupturing increases after 36 hours of untreated symptoms. As appendicitis worsens, a person might suffer from chills, constipation, diarrhea, fever, shaking and vomiting.

What happens?

When you arrive at the hospital, a doctor might order a CT scan or ultrasound. A radiologist can sometimes tell through testing whether you're suffering from appendicitis. However, you will probably not undergo extensive testing, for time is an important factor when dealing with appendicitis.

At the beginning of the surgery, your doctor might fill up your stomach with a gas to elevate the stomach wall, lifting it away from the intestines. This can sometimes help reduce injury during surgery.

Some doctors perform a laparoscopic appendectomy, which involves less cutting than traditional surgery. All surgeons have their own techniques. Generally, if your doctor performs a laparoscopic appendectomy, he or she will make a few small cuts in your abdomen and insert ports around your abdomen area.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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