An appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix. The procedure is normally performed in an emergency situation, when a patient is suffering from acute appendicitis. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. If left untreated, an inflamed appendix could eventually burst, or perforate, leaking infectious material into the abdominal cavity, eventually causing sepsis.
Once the diagnosis of appendicitis has been made (usually based upon a physical exam, blood and urine tests, and possibly an X-ray, ultrasound or CT scan), antibiotics are administered prior to surgery. Appendectomies can be performed using an open method, or laparoscopically.
In an open appendectomy, a two to three inch incision is made through the layers of the abdominal wall near the appendix. After examining the surrounding area, the appendix is removed by cutting it from the colon and sewing over the hole. The incision is then closed. This procedure is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia, and the hospital stay is usually one or two days. If the appendix has been perforated, the surgeon may insert a drain to release fluid from the abscess before removing the appendix. In this case, antibiotics must be administered after the surgery and the patient may remain in the hospital for a longer period of time.
The laparoscopic technique involves making a series of small incisions in the abdomen. One incision is for insertion of a laparoscope, a thin telescopic instrument attached to a video camera that allows the surgeon to inspect the abdomen and appendix. Special instruments are inserted in the other incisions, and the appendix can be removed through one of the small incisions. This approach generally results in less post-operative pain for the patient and a quicker recovery time. Laparoscopic surgery also enables the surgeon to make a clear diagnosis in case appendicitis is in doubt.
General surgery, despite its name, is a surgical subspecialty that primarily focuses on abdominal organs and the intestines including esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, gallbladder and bile ducts, and often the thyroid gland (depending on the availability of head and neck surgery specialists). This encompasses a wide range of procedures including appendectomies and hernia repair to lung volume reduction surgery and thyroidectomy.
This website includes a basic explanation of many commonly-performed general surgeries. These procedure overviews describe the typical situation; however, every patient and each surgery is unique. Your physician or nurse can provide additional details on your individual circumstances