Appendectomy

What is appendicitis?

Quite simply, appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix. It is the most common medical emergency in the United States, and if left untreated can be deadly. It is unclear what actually causes appendicitis, though researchers believe that it is caused by an obstruction in the appendix. This obstruction can be partial or complete, in the latter case, emergency surgery is performed. 

How is appendicitis diagnosed?

A doctor will perform a physical examination of the abdominal region, looking for any signs of swelling, tenderness, or hardness. To rule out other possibilities, a doctor might also perform a urinalysis to check for kidney stones, a pelvic exam to rule out reproductive problems, or a pregnancy test. A patient may also have abdominal imaging done to look for abscesses or other complications, or a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. In addition, a CT scan may also be performed.

 

In most cases, appendicitis will require surgery, however treatment varies with each case. This surgery is performed more than 90% of the time laparoscopically. If an abscess is involved, the abscess may first need to be treated with antibiotics and drainage before surgery is performed. If rupture (without an abscess) of the appendix has happened, surgery is immediately necessary.

After Surgery

What is the recovery time?

Immediately following surgery, and depending on the type of pain medicine, a patient may feel unwell for 2-3 days. Full recovery can take up to 6-8 weeks. Some patients are able to return to work after 1 week, as long as no heavy lifting takes place. Heavy lifting and strenuous activity is not allowed for up to 6 weeks after surgery.

Are there any possible complications?

Like with any operation the most common complications are bleeding and infection. An abcess in the area of the appendix is a common indication of infection. As that area is infected in appendicitis, there is a chance that an abscess can develop about a week after surgery. In this case a drainage procedure may be required along with antibiotics. Other rarer complications may include the intestinal inability to move food (ileus), blood clots to the lungs or leakage of bowel contents from the site where the appendix was removed.

Are there long term consequences?

Generally there are no long term consequences. Some patients are at an increased risk of hernia or a stump appendicitis (an infection due to a retained portion of the appendix).