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What Is Involved in an Appendectomy Procedure?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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An appendectomy is a surgical procedure that is performed in order to remove the appendix. It is performed under general anesthesia, meaning that the patient is completely sedated until after the surgery has been completed. The procedure may be performed as an open surgery or as a laparoscopic procedure. Recovery time depends on the type of appendectomy procedure that is performed, as open surgery requires a few extra weeks of recovery time as opposed to laparoscopic surgery.

Before the procedure begins, a small tube known as an IV is usually inserted into a vein in the arm. This allows fluids and medications to be quickly introduced into the bloodstream. Medications for nausea, pain medications, and antibiotics are common medications that may be introduced in this manner. The patient is then completely sedated and prepared for surgery.

If the traditional open appendectomy procedure is chosen as the best surgical solution, a 2- to 3-inch (about 5- to 8-cm) incision is made into the lower abdominal wall. This allows the surgeon to have clear access to the appendix. The appendix is then carefully removed from the body and the incision is closed, usually with sutures or staples. This procedure is highly invasive and carries a higher risk of complications, such as bleeding, damage to surrounding organs, and infection, than the laparoscopic approach.

A laparoscopic procedure is similar in nature to open surgery, except that it is much less invasive. Instead of a large incision, two or three small incisions are typically made into the abdominal wall. Small instruments, including a tiny camera, are inserted into these holes so that the procedure can be completed without the surgeon needing to insert his hands inside the abdomen. This greatly reduces the chances of complications such as infection and speeds recovery time by several weeks.

After the appendectomy procedure is completed, the patient is slowly awakened from sedation and monitored closely for any potential signs of complications. In some cases, those who have had the laparoscopic procedure are sent home the same day, although an overnight stay in the hospital is more common. If open surgery is necessary, the patient can expect to spend several days in the hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, the patient will be given post-operative care instructions and be scheduled for a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. Any questions or concerns about the appendectomy procedure should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

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