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

Your doctor will next use a small camera to look inside your abdomen. Medical instruments will be inserted inside the ports to help free the appendix from your intestines, and your appendix will be removed. If you suffer from contamination or infection, the area will be rinsed with saline.

Does it hurt?

After the surgery, you likely will have some pain. As with every surgery, some patients feel more pain than others do.

The gas that's put in your stomach during the procedure stretches the abdominal wall, a process that can cause pain in your abdomen and sometimes in your shoulder. After a few days, most pain should be gone.

What are the risk factors?

As with any surgery, there's always risk for infection and bleeding. Risk is higher, but still rare, if you've had other surgeries before and have scar tissue from those surgeries.

Because anesthesia is often used during the surgery, there's a risk that you will suffer from a reaction to the anesthesia or have problems breathing.

What's the recovery time?

Appendicitis becomes more serious if your appendix is ruptured. Also, if your appendix bursts, the infection can sometimes form what's known as an abscess, a pocket of pus and infection around the appendix. It takes longer to recover if either of these things happens. You might be in the hospital for a few days, and it could take you up to two months to recover.

If you have an uncomplicated case of appendicitis, meaning your appendix didn't burst, you might be able to leave the hospital the same day. Once you're home, you'll probably be down for about a week.

Your doctor will likely recommend no heavy lifting for at least a week.

What's the follow-up?

You shouldn't need a follow-up surgery, but your doctor will probably want to see you again. Your doctor will want to check your wounds, ensure you don't have fever, and that you're using the bathroom regularly.

Sources: Svein Holsaeter, a general surgeon at St. Anthony; National Center for Biotechnology Information; National Institutes of Health

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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