An appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix. It is a common procedure that surgeons usually carry out in an emergency. A person is under general anesthesia when doctors remove the appendix, meaning they should not feel any pain during the procedure. However, the surgical area may become tender as it heals.

The appendix is a small pouch that does not perform any vital functions in the body. However, it is close to the large intestine and is sometimes vulnerable to infection due to the accumulation of stool, bacteria, and other infectious material.

If it acquires an infection, a doctor will usually recommend removing the appendix with an appendectomy.

In most cases, an appendectomy is an emergency procedure that doctors perform when a person’s appendix develops an infection and becomes inflamed. When appendicitis develops, individuals will often experience pain around the belly button that then migrates to the lower right quadrant of the abdomen.

Before the procedure, the surgeon will place the person under general anesthesia, meaning they will not feel the surgery. Following the operation, the patient may require a short hospital stay. However, doctors may also release them on the day of the procedure.

While recovering, a person’s incisions may feel tender to the touch. They will also need to take some time off from their regular activities. During the recovery period, an individual’s doctor will likely recommend medications to help alleviate the pain.

A surgeon may recommend one of two types of appendectomy procedures. They include:

  • Open appendectomy: An open appendectomy involves creating a single, larger incision in the abdomen. Once the surgeon makes the incision, they pull out the appendix and then seal the incision.
  • Laparoscopic appendectomy: A generally less invasive procedure, a laparoscopic appendectomy involves the surgeon making about 3 small incisions into the abdomen. They then guide a small tube with a camera into the abdomen and use a screen to guide them as they remove the appendix. The surgical team closes the wounds once the doctor removes the appendix.

Both procedures require recovery in the hospital and additional recovery time at home. Which procedure a doctor chooses will vary according to their experience with either approach, the patient’s choice, and which technique the medical facility offers.

After surgery, recovery time varies depending on the severity of the infection and whether or not the appendix has ruptured.

According to the American College of Surgeons, if the appendix did not rupture, a person usually may go home after 1 or 2 days in the hospital. However, doctors increasingly release individuals on the same day following the procedure, as research shows this can be safe and results in low rates of complications or readmissions.

A person will need to stay longer at the hospital if their appendix has ruptured. In these cases, they will receive strong antibiotics and remain under observation for any signs of complications.

People should avoid driving, drinking alcohol, and operating machinery for up to 2 days after an appendectomy. They should also refrain from making important decisions because the anesthetic can make it difficult to think clearly for a couple of days.

A doctor will speak with the individual about activity restrictions and expected recovery times. These activity restrictions will typically last between 2 and 4 weeks after the appendectomy.

Most children can return to school within 1 week of the surgery if their appendix did not rupture and within 2 weeks if it did.

As they wake from surgery, a person will likely feel groggy and may have trouble thinking clearly. They should notify a healthcare professional if they experience nausea or are in pain.

After some time in the recovery unit, a healthcare professional will often transfer the person to a hospital room. At this time, they can start drinking small sips of clear liquids. However, they should not advance to solid foods until they are sure their body can tolerate clear liquids.

Before an individual goes home, their doctor will usually give them some tips for improving their recovery and reducing the risk of infection.

Tips for aiding recovery after an appendectomy include:

  • Refraining from lifting heavy objects: Avoid lifting items heavier than 10 pounds for 3–5 days following laparoscopic surgery or 10–14 days after open surgery.
  • Washing the hands thoroughly: Wash with warm water and soap before touching the area close to an incision site.
  • Following the medical team’s instructions regarding bathing: Most surgeons recommend refraining from showering until at least the second day after surgery.
  • Checking the bandages for signs of infection: These can include thick, strong-smelling drainage or redness and pain at the incision site.
  • Refraining from wearing tight clothing: This could rub against the incision sites and cause discomfort.
  • Using pain relievers to minimize any discomfort: Narcotic pain medications can cause constipation. As a result, a doctor may prescribe a stool softener and recommend an increased water intake to reduce the likelihood of a bowel obstruction.
  • Holding a pillow over the stomach: Use this to apply firm pressure before coughing or moving to minimize strain on the incision sites. This practice is known as splinting.

A person should notify their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms during their recovery:

  • fever higher than 101°F (33°C)
  • not passing gas or stool for 3 days
  • pain that persists or gets worse
  • severe abdominal pain
  • vomiting

These symptoms could indicate complications. Additionally, a person should speak with their doctor regarding any other unexpected symptoms.

If the appendix develops an infection, it can cause a painful condition called appendicitis.

Doctors consider appendicitis a medical emergency because the appendix can burst or rupture, allowing any contents that carry the infection to enter the abdominal cavity. Therefore, removing the appendix before it ruptures is vital to prevent complications. Surgery to remove the appendix is called an appendectomy.

Appendicitis causes abdominal pain, usually in the region of the belly button. The pain may also radiate to the lower right section of the abdomen. Additional signs and symptoms that indicate appendicitis include:

  • appetite loss
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • frequent urination
  • nausea
  • painful urination
  • vomiting

If the appendix bursts, it is likely that the individual will also have a high fever and severe pain in the abdominal area.

Surgery is the most common treatment for appendicitis. While a person may take antibiotics to reduce the incidence of infection, doctors will usually recommend that healthy people have an appendectomy to avoid the appendix rupturing in the future.

An appendectomy is a common surgical procedure that doctors usually perform using keyhole surgery, also called laparoscopic surgery. This procedure is less invasive than open surgery.

Surgeons usually perform an appendectomy under general anesthesia. As a result, the person will be completely asleep and unaware that the surgery is occurring.

The procedure typically includes the following steps:

  • A surgeon makes between one and three small incisions in the abdomen, into which they insert a special tool called a port.
  • They then pump carbon dioxide through this port to inflate the stomach and make the organs in the abdomen easier to see.
  • The surgeon then inserts a lighted camera, called a laparoscope, through one of the incisions.
  • They use other instruments to identify, position, and remove the appendix.
  • The surgeon removes the appendix through one of the incisions and administers sterile fluid to remove any remaining material with any infections.
  • The surgeon removes the surgical instruments, which allows the carbon dioxide gas to escape. They then close the incisions with sutures or bandages.

Sometimes, if the surgeon cannot see the appendix well enough or the individual has other health-related issues, it is not possible to complete the surgery using a laparoscope. In these cases, it will be necessary for the surgeon to perform an open appendectomy, which involves making a larger incision.

An appendectomy is often an emergency procedure, so there is usually little time to prepare for it.

However, a person will ideally be able to complete some of the following steps before surgery:

  • Refrain from eating for at least 8 hours before surgery: Doing this reduces the risk of aspiration — where the contents of the stomach enter the lungs — and other complications. An empty stomach also makes it easier for the doctor to see the abdominal cavity.
  • Avoid taking certain medications before surgery as the medical team advises: For example, some doctors recommend that people avoid taking insulin in the morning because they will not be able to eat before or immediately after surgery.

A doctor may also provide an individual with additional instructions on preparing for the procedure.

All surgical procedures carry some risks. A surgeon should clearly explain the risks of an appendectomy with the individual before performing the procedure.

The potential risks of an appendectomy include:

  • Intestinal obstruction: An estimated 3% of individuals experience this postoperative complication, which prevents the passage of stool, gas, and fluid through the intestines. Without treatment, this blockage can result in severe complications.
  • Premature labor: An appendectomy during pregnancy results in premature labor in about 8–10% of cases. The risk is usually higher if the appendix ruptures. The rate of fetal loss resulting from this procedure is approximately 2%.
  • Wound infection: This complication affects 1.6% of people who have laparoscopic surgery and 4% of those who undergo an open appendectomy.

Additionally, a person should watch for some of the following signs of complications and make an appointment with their doctor as soon as possible if they occur:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • swelling, bleeding, redness, or drainage from the incision
  • constant coughing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing in general
  • swelling, cramps, or pain in the abdomen
  • increasing pain at or around the incision site
  • loss of appetite
  • lack of bowel movements for 2 or more days
  • fever or chills

Less than 1% of people undergoing an appendectomy experience the following complications:

Although it is rare to experience complications, anyone with concerns about their symptoms should contact their doctor immediately.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about appendix surgery.

How long does appendix surgery take?

The length of the procedure can vary. In most cases, a laparoscopic appendectomy should take about 1 hour. A person can also expect to spend between 1 and 2 days in the hospital to recover. However, they can often go home on the same day following the procedure. If their appendix bursts prior to the surgery, the stay in the hospital may be closer to a week.

A person should speak with their doctor about the procedure length and recovery time in the hospital and home for the most accurate estimates.

Pain after appendectomy how long

A person can expect to have some pain following the appendectomy. While in the hospital, they can request pain medication as necessary, which a nurse will likely administer through an intravenous drip.

Once home, an individual can expect some continued but gradually improving pain. During recovery, a doctor may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter pain medications to help reduce discomfort.

A person may expect some discomfort during long periods of standing or movement. Those who had laparoscopic may experience some lingering pain for a few days due to the gas injection into their abdomen during the procedure.

An appendectomy is a common surgical procedure to remove the appendix. Surgeons often perform them to treat appendicitis.

The recovery time and the risk of complications depend on the severity of appendicitis and whether or not the appendix ruptured. Prompt recognition and diagnosis of appendicitis are vital to allow a person to get treatment before this occurs.

Many people can go home within 2 days of the procedure, and it is not necessary to make lifestyle changes after recovering from an appendectomy.

As the appendix does not perform any vital functions in the body, a person can live without it.