Generally performed as an emergency surgery, an appendectomy occurs when appendix is surgically removed from the body. Recovery time for an appendectomy may vary; however, the care needed after this type of operation is the same for all patients. Aside from rest, one of the most important things a patient must do after an appendectomy is to get up and move. In addition, a patient usually needs to take antibiotics and keep the incision site clean.
Unlike many other conditions, the appendix typically shows no signs or symptoms of a problem until days, or even hours, before it ruptures, which is why an appendectomy is generally performed on an emergency basis. In some cases, appendicitis presents as a severe pain the patient's lower right abdomen, while, in others, the patient's appendix actually bursts before he or she feels enough pain to warrant a trip to the emergency room. In either case, the appendix must be removed immediately to prevent infection and internal bleeding.
The surgical procedure used to remove an appendix is fairly simple. The surgeon will make an incision just large enough to work in the patient's lower abdomen through which the appendix is tied off, cut, and removed. In some cases, the surgeons may even opt for a laparoscopy, a procedure that makes a tiny incision below the belly button, along with two other small incisions in the lower abdomen. The surgeons use a tiny camera and small tools for this minimally invasive and more cosmetically-friendly option. One of the dangers of appendicitis is the potential rupture of the appendix; if this has occurred, the surgeon will use a mixture of warm water and antibiotics to gently cleanse inside the abdomen and then insert a catheter to aid in the draining of excess fluid before closing the incision.
A patient will be closely monitored after an appendectomy to make sure his or her vital signs are within the normal range upon waking up from the anesthesia. Once he or she is fully awake, he or she will be transferred to a regular room. The general hospital stay for most patients is no longer than two days after an appendectomy; however, a longer stay may be necessary if the appendix actually ruptured. Within a few hours after waking up, an appendectomy patient needs to get up and try to walk to get the intestines working again.
Once home, a patient will need to rest for at least one to two weeks after an appendectomy. Full recovery may take as long as four to six weeks, although most patients may return to light work after two weeks. Pain medication is typically prescribed to help with the discomfort and antibiotics must be taken to prevent any infection from the surgery. The site of the incision must also be kept clean by washing it daily and applying antibacterial cream if available.