The Basics

Appendectomy is a permanent surgical procedure that removes the appendix (a small sac attached to the large intestine). This procedure is usually performed to treat appendicitis, which is a relatively common condition where the appendix becomes inflamed or infected from blockage or other unknown reasons.

An appendectomy is the only treatment for appendicitis. If it is not removed in time, your appendix might burst, which can lead to serious complications.

A patient undergoing an appendectomy.
A patient undergoing an appendectomy.

Risks and precautions

In general, surgery and the use of anesthesia come with some risks that are associated with factors like your health condition and what the surgery involves. Side effects are very rare but can include trouble breathing, reactions to the anesthetic, bleeding, infection, scarring, and death.

Appendectomy is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • intestinal obstruction
  • reactions to medications for anesthesia
  • scarring

Talk to your doctor if you are worried about any of the symptoms or side effects you experience after this procedure.

It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.

Before the procedure

It is important that you fully understand what the procedure involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of the procedure, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.

Before the procedure, your doctor will conduct a number of tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. These may include a medical history, physical examination, blood test, urine test, CT (computed tomography) scan, and ultrasound. You may be given intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics before surgery.

You may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; follow the timing that your doctor recommended. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; however, you may continue to drink clear liquids until 2 hours before the procedure.

If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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