When someone mentions their appendix, they are usually talking about having it removed. Most people are only aware of their appendix when it becomes inflamed and infected, requiring a general surgeon to remove it, also known as an appendectomy.
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Why Would I Need My Appendix Removed?
Your appendix is a tube-shaped sac attached to your large intestine. Experts disagree on the exact purpose of the appendix, but agree that as we age, our body no longer needs it. Sometimes, a blockage in the lining of the appendix can lead to infection (appendicitis) and cause the appendix to burst—a life-threatening condition.
Because your appendix can rupture as soon as 48 to 72 hours after symptoms start, you should seek out emergency care if you experience the following symptoms:
- Sudden pain or aching around your belly button or right hip bone that worsens when you walk or move quickly
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever that increases as illness progresses
- Bloating and change in bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea)
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What to Expect When Your Appendix is Removed
There are two types of appendectomy surgeries—open or minimally invasive. The type of surgery you have will depend on the severity of your appendicitis, your overall health, and your medical history.
During an open procedure, the surgeon uses one incision in the lower right side of your abdomen. During minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon uses several small incisions in your abdomen to remove the appendix. Whenever possible, general surgeons opt for the minimally invasive procedure, as it results in less pain, a shorter hospital stay, and faster recovery.
Recovering from an Appendectomy
You can expect to leave the hospital one to two days following open surgery. If you have minimally invasive surgery, you may be able to return home the same day. Over the next few weeks, you will fully recover.
After surgery, you will have some restrictions:
- Do not lift heavy objects
- No strenuous activity for 10 to 14 days after an open procedure or three to five days after a minimally invasive procedure
- Use a pillow for support on your abdomen when you cough, laugh, or sneeze
- Avoid baths until stitches are removed (open procedure)
- Return to work or school when you are cleared by your doctor
Learning the symptoms of appendicitis is the key to an easier surgery and faster recovery. Seek treatment immediately from your doctor or the emergency department at the first sign of appendicitis symptoms.
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