An appendectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the appendix, a small organ located at the junction of the small intestine and colon. The appendix, once thought to be only vestigial, is now known to help lubricate the colon and to assist the immune system. Appendectomies are, therefore, performed only when necessary.
Reasons for an Appendectomy
There are two main reasons for an appendectomy.
Appendectomy is a necessary response to appendicitis, an inflammation or swelling of the appendix. Appendicitis may result in extremely serious complications, such as rupture of the appendix, peritonitis, intestinal blockage or sepsis.
Appendectomy is also required to remove tumors of the appendix. Such tumors not only may be malignant, but may enlarge and perforate the appendix, causing serious consequences..
The Appendectomy Procedure
Appendectomies may be performed as open surgery or laparoscopically. In the latter case, an endoscope and a few surgical instruments are inserted through a series of small incisions. The camera on the endoscope allows the surgeon to confirm the presence of appendicitis and perform the surgery without making a large incision. Patients can return home in as little as 24 hours. Laparoscopic surgery results in less pain and a shorter recovery period, but, due to the particular patient's situation, may not always be possible.
Recovery from an Appendectomy
As with any surgical procedure, it is important that the patient follow protocol during the recuperation period in order to ensure proper healing. The following steps should be taken after an appendectomy:
- Rest and avoidance of strenuous activity
- Wound care at the surgical site to avoid infection
- Use of antibiotics
- Use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Dietary restrictions to avoid constipation and intestinal distress
Risks of an Appendectomy
Risks and benefits should always be discussed with the physician before any surgery since there is the possibility, however slight, that complications, such as those listed below, may occur:
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medications
- Excessive bleeding
- Post-surgical Infection
- Damage to adjacent organs
It is important to remember that the worst risks of appendicitis, a ruptured appendix and peritonitis, far outweigh the risk of the appendectomy itself.