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What is an Appendicectomy?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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An appendicectomy, also commonly known as an appendectomy, is the surgical removal of the appendix. The appendix is a small pouch attached to the first portion of the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. The appendix has no useful function in humans but is believed to have been a useful part of the digestive system in human ancestors. When the appendix becomes infected or inflamed, it may have to be removed in an effort to prevent rupture. If an infected appendix ruptures, the infection can spread to other area of the body, a potentially life-threatening medical emergency.

An inflamed appendix, known as appendicitis, is the most common reason for an appendicectomy and is often performed as an emergency surgery. The primary symptom of appendicitis is extreme pain in the lower right part of the abdomen. Nausea, vomiting, and fever could also be present. Due to the potential for rupture, these symptoms should be considered a medical emergency. Once appendicitis is diagnosed, an appendicectomy is often performed.

An appendicectomy is performed under general anesthesia, meaning that the patient is completely sedated and unaware of what is going on during the surgical procedure. This surgery can either be performed on an outpatient basis or require several days at the hospital, depending on the type of surgery performed and whether the appendix ruptured and is leaking toxins into the abdominal cavity.

A laparoscopic appendicectomy is typically the most preferred method of surgery because it is much less invasive than open surgery, often allowing the patient to go home the same day. In this type of surgical procedure, several small surgical holes are placed into the abdominal wall, allowing the surgeon to insert cameras and medical instruments into the abdominal cavity. Certain health conditions, such as heart disease, may prevent laparoscopic surgery from being an option in some patients.

An open appendicectomy is a more traditional approach to removing the appendix and is still performed in cases where laparoscopic surgery is not an appropriate option. This type of surgery requires a larger incision, which increases the risks of developing an infection after surgery. For this reason, the patient will likely spend several days in the hospital so the medical team can watch for potential signs of complications. Recovery time may take several extra weeks in patients who have had an open appendicectomy as opposed to a laparoscopic appendicectomy.

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