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An appendectomy is surgery to remove the appendix.

See also: Appendicitis

Alternative Names

Appendix removal


The appendix is a small, finger-shaped sac extending from the first part of the large intestine. It is removed when it becomes inflamed or infected. An infected appendix can leak and infect the entire abdominal area, which can be deadly. See: Peritonitis

An appendectomy is done under general anesthesia, which means you are asleep and do not feel any pain during the surgery. The surgeon makes a small cut in the lower right side of your belly area and removes the appendix.

The appendix can also be removed using minimally invasive techniques. This is called a laparoscopic appendectomy. It is performed with small incisions and a camera.

If the appendix ruptured or a pocket of infection (abscess) formed, your abdomen will be thoroughly washed out during surgery. A small tube may be left in the belly area to help drain out fluids or pus.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

An emergency appendix removal will be needed if you have symptoms of sudden (acute) appendicitis. These symptoms include:

If you have symptoms of appendicitis, seek immediate emergency medical help. Untreated sudden (acute) appendicitis can be deadly. Do not use heating pads, enemas, laxatives, or other home treatments to try and relieve symptoms.

Your health care provider will examine your abdomen and rectum to check for a swollen appendix. Blood tests, including a white blood cell count (WBC), may be done to check for infection. In many cases, especially when the diagnosis is not clear, the doctor may order a CT scan to make sure the appendix is the cause of the problem.

There is no actual test to confirm appendicitis. It is important to understand that the symptoms may be caused by other illnesses. The health care provider will diagnose the condition based on your symptoms, medical history, and the results of the physical exam and medical tests.

The appendix may be removed even when it is not infected to prevent future problems.


Risks for any anesthesia include the following:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing

Risks for any surgery include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Additional risks with an appendectomy with ruptured appendix include the following:

  • Longer hospital stays
  • Side effects from medications
After the Procedure

Patients tend to recover quickly after a simple appendectomy. Most patients leave the hospital in 1 - 3 days after the operation. Normal activities can be resumed within 1 - 3 weeks after leaving the hospital.

Recovery is slower and more complicated if the appendix has ruptured or an abscess has formed.

Living without an appendix causes no known health problems.


Maa J, Kirkwood KS. The appendix. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 49.

Wolfe JM, Henneman PL. Acute appendicitis. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, Adams JG. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby; 2006:chap 92.

Review Date: 5/2/2009
Reviewed By: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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