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 assist the immune system. Appendectomies are, therefore, performed only when necessary.
Reasons for Appendectomy
There are two main reasons an appendectomy is performed.
Appendectomy is a necessary response to appendicitis, an inflammation or swelling of the appendix. Appendicitis can cause extremely serious complications, such as rupture of the appendix; peritonitis; intestinal blockage; and sepsis.
Appendectomy is also required to remove tumors of the appendix. Not only can these tumors be malignant, they can 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 tiny surgical instruments are inserted through a series of small incisions. The camera on the endoscope allows the surgeon to confirm the presence of appendicitis or tumors, 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 Appendectomy
As with any surgical procedure, it is important that the patient follow protocol during the recuperation period 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
To avoid constipation and intestinal distress, a restricted diet is also necessary.
Risks of Appendectomy
Risks and benefits should always be discussed with the physician before surgery because complications, including those listed below, can occur:
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medication
- Excessive bleeding
- Post-surgical Infection
- Damage to adjacent organs
In general, the worst risks of appendicitis, a ruptured appendix and peritonitis, far outweigh any risks of the appendectomy itself.