An appendectomy is a surgery to remove the appendix when it is infected. This condition is called appendicitis. Appendectomy is a common emergency surgery.
The appendix is a thin pouch that is attached to the large intestine. It sits in the lower right part of your belly. If you have appendicitis, your appendix must be removed right away. If not treated, your appendix can burst. This is a medical emergency.
There are 2 types of surgery to remove the appendix. The standard method is an open appendectomy. A newer, less invasive method is a laparoscopic appendectomy.
During a laparoscopic surgery, your provider may decide that an open appendectomy is needed.
If your appendix has burst and infection has spread, you may need an open appendectomy.
A laparoscopic appendectomy may cause less pain and scarring than an open appendectomy. For either type of surgery, the scar is often hard to see once it has healed.
Both types of surgery have a low risk of complications. A laparoscopic appendectomy has a shorter hospital stay, shorter recovery time, and lower infection rates.
Recently, some studies have suggested that intravenous antibiotics alone could cure appendicitis without the need for an appendectomy. These results remain controversial and appendectomy remains the standard of care.
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The appendix (uh-PEN-dix) is a narrow, finger-shaped organ located in the lower right side of the belly. It is connected to the large intestine, and has no function in humans. Appendectomy (app-pen-DECK-toe-me) is done as an emergency surgery for appendicitis because the appendix has become inflamed (swollen) and needs to be removed. If it is not removed, it could burst and cause infection called peritonitis (per-i-toe-NY-tus ) in the abdomen. A laparoscopic (lap-a-ro- SKOPP-ik) or “lap” appendectomy is a minimally invasive surgery to remove the appendix through several small incisions, rather than through one large one. Recovery time from the lap appendectomy is short.
Most patients who need a lap appendectomy enter the hospital through the Emergency Department and are taken to surgery within a few hours. Your child will be given antibiotics first and then be taken to surgery.
A pediatric anesthesiologist — a doctor who specializes in anesthesia for children — will meet with you before the surgery to ask questions about your child’s health and about when your child last ate. This information is important because many patients with appendicitis appear to have a full stomach because of irritation from the inflamed appendix. Because your child may have eaten more recently than is usually advised for surgery, the anesthesiologist may make adjustments to your child’s anesthesia so that he or she does not vomit during the
operation. Once admitted, your child will not be able to have anything to eat or drink until after the operation.
As the parent or legal guardian, you will be asked to sign a consent form before the anesthesia is given.
When your child is asleep, the surgery will begin.
Children’s Hospital takes every precaution to make sure your child is safe. Although appendectomy is the most common pediatric emergency surgical procedure, there are some risks.
Risks involved in the lap appendectomy include:
Your child’s surgeon will discuss these risks with you before the surgery.
While your child is asleep, his or her heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and blood oxygen level will be checked continuously. Your child might have a breathing tube placed while he or she is asleep. If a breathing tube is used, your child might have a sore throat after the surgery.
To keep your child asleep during the surgery, he or she might be given anesthetic medication by mask, through the IV tube, or both. When the surgery is over, the medications will be stopped and your child will begin to wake up.
After surgery, your child will be moved to the recovery room to allow the anesthetic to wear off. You will be called so that you can be there as he or she wakes up.
The most important role of a parent or guardian is to help your child stay calm and relaxed before the surgery. The best way to help your child stay calm is for you to stay calm.
Before you go home, your doctor will prescribe pain medication for your child.
If your child’s appendix has burst, he or she will be treated for infection with antibiotics that will be given through an intravenous (IV) tube. Your child may be sent home with antibiotics and a special IV tube called a PICC (pick) line. A PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line is a longer IV, usually placed in the upper arm. You will be told how to care for your child’s incisions and/or PICC line before leaving the hospital.
At Home After the Surgery
After your child is discharged and goes home, he or she should take it easy for the next 1 to 2 weeks.
Your child may take a shower 2 days after the surgery; baths are allowed 5 days after surgery.
Following the surgery, activity needs to be somewhat restricted.
When To Call the Doctor
If your child has a fever higher than 101.5 F, bleeding, or foul smelling drainage from the area around the incisions, call your surgeon right away. Also call the doctor if your child has:
If you have any specific questions about your child’s surgery, you should discuss them with the surgeon before the surgery. After the surgery, you may call the Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery at Children’s Hospital and ask to speak with your child’s surgeon, or speak with him or her during the follow-up visit, if needed.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor needs to know about, please call the Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC before the follow-up visit and ask to speak with a nurse. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
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