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The appendix is a finger-like pouch that protrudes from the cecum (beginning of the large intestine). Due to certain conditions, the tissues of the appendix may become infected and inflamed. The developing pus ultimately clogs the lumen of the appendix, and may cause it to swell to the point of rupturing.

What Is an Appendectomy?

Appendectomy is the surgery performed to remove the infected appendix.

It is usually an emergency operation. Since the appendix plays no essential role in the digestive processes, it may be removed as a precautionary measure in people who are undergoing abdominal surgery.

Pre-Op Preparations

Certain routine preparations need to be made before undergoing an appendectomy. These include:

  • A detailed account of your medical history, questioning about any prior health conditions, allergies, medications, etc.
  • A physical examination - The doctor will apply mild pressure against your abdomen to locate the exact source of your abdominal pain.
  • Blood and imaging tests - These are often done when the infection is caught in its early stages.
  • Prior to the surgery, an IV-line will be started so that you may receive the required fluids and medication.

Procedure

Depending on the medical history and extent of infection, an appendectomy may be performed in two ways. These are described as follows:

Open Appendectomy

A single incision is made in the lower right part of the abdomen. The appendix is excised and the incision is closed. This procedure is favored for people who are obese, have a history of abdominal infection or have a ruptured appendix.

Laparoscopic Appendectomy

This is a minimally invasive approach. Several small incisions are made in the abdomen, and a laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through them. An external monitor is used to see the entire procedure. After the appendix is removed, the incisions are cleaned and closed.

Possible Post-Op Complications

Even though an appendectomy is a relatively risk-free procedure, certain complications may still develop.

The following are the most common ones:

  • Paralytic ileus

The bowel is, in normal conditions, usually under constant rhythmic and systematic motion. During the surgery, the bowel may be disturbed, causing it to cease (paralyze) its movements. This results in fluids and gases accumulating in the bowel, causing it to become swollen. This is more common when the appendix was removed after it had perforated. Food and fluids are administered intravenously, and the condition is relieved by passing a nasogastric tube via the nose into the stomach.

  • Infection of the wound

The skin around the closed incisions may become inflamed and infected with pus. Antibiotics will be given, based on the extent of the infection. If the condition does not improve, the surgical site may have to be re-opened in order to drain the wound of pus and toxins.

  • Pain and Pain Medication

Some people may experience pain in their shoulders, especially after a laparoscopic appendectomy. This is due to the carbon dioxide gas that is pumped into the abdominal area to facilitate the procedure. This condition is usually resolved on its own in a day or two. However, some individuals may develop chronic pain in their abdomen, which may even last for months. In this case, pain medication (narcotics) is usually prescribed. Examples include Percocet, Oxycodone, Vicodin, etc.

It is extremely important to take these medications as instructed. These drugs may make you drowsy, thus activities such as driving should be avoided. Never consume alcohol along with these medications, and take them with meals to avoid feeling nauseous. If any other symptoms develop, such as a rash, consult your doctor.

  • Constipation

Paralytic ileus and narcotics may cause bowel movements to slow down, resulting in constipation. Stool softeners, as advised by the doctor, may be taken before the surgery to prevent this.

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