What you should know
An open appendectomy is surgery to remove your appendix through an incision in your lower abdomen.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
- You may have pain, fever, or an infection after your surgery. You may have an allergic reaction to antibiotics or anesthesia medicine. Your organs may be damaged or push through your incision site. Scar tissue may form inside your body and cause tissue and organs to stick together (adhesions). Adhesions may cause bowel obstruction or infertility. Your bowels may stop working. You may get an abscess, which is a pus filled pocket of tissue that can cause infection. You may need another surgery to help fix some of these problems.
- You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. A blood clot in your brain can cause a stroke. These problems can be life-threatening.
- With or without surgery, your appendix may have gangrene if the tissues in or near your appendix have died because of infection. You may get a serious blood infection which could be life-threatening. Without surgery, your appendix may burst and the contents of your appendix may spill inside your abdomen. If this happens, the infection may spread to other organs and your blood.
Before your surgery:
- You may need to have blood or urine tests. If you are a woman of childbearing age, you may need to have a pregnancy test. You may have imaging tests, such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or an ultrasound. Your caregiver may do a digital rectal exam (DRE). During a DRE, your caregiver will put a gloved finger inside your anus. Ask your caregiver for more information on any tests that you may need.
- Tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
The day of your surgery:
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
- Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
- Antibiotics: Your caregiver may give you antibiotic medicine through your IV to prevent an infection during or after surgery.
- An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. This caregiver may give you medicine to make you sleepy before your procedure or surgery. Tell your caregiver if you or anyone in your family has had a problem using anesthesia in the past.
What will happen:
- You will be taken to the room where your surgery will be done. Anesthesia medicine will be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during your surgery. Your caregiver will make a cut through your lower abdomen. Your caregiver will remove your appendix and close its stump with stitches or special staples.
- Your caregiver may check for tumors or other problems in your abdomen. Your caregiver may wash the inside of your abdomen. If pus remains inside your abdomen, your caregiver may place a drain in your wound. Your caregiver may close your cut with stitches. Your caregiver may also leave your surgical cut open to help remove infection. Your appendix or fluid from your abdomen may be sent to a lab for testing.
After your surgery:
You will be taken to a room where you will rest until you wake up. Once your caregiver says it is okay, you will be taken to your hospital room. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. Your caregiver will listen to your stomach for bowel sounds using a stethoscope. You may be on a clear diet at first. You may be given ice chips and then liquids such as water, broth, juice, or soda pop. Caregivers will tell you when it is okay to eat your regular diet. If your caregiver left your cut open during surgery, then he may close it if he does not see any infection.
This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.
Contact a caregiver if
- You feel nauseated or have vomited.
- Your abdomen becomes more tender.
- You have questions or concerns about your surgery.
Seek Care Immediately if
- You have a fever.
- The pain or cramps in your abdomen become worse.
- You have trouble breathing.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.