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Open Appendectomy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


What you need to know about an open appendectomy:

An open appendectomy is surgery to remove your appendix through an incision in your lower abdomen.

Abdominal Organs

How to prepare for surgery:

  • Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare for surgery. The provider will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery. You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Antibiotics may be given through your IV to prevent an infection during or after surgery. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to antibiotics.

What will happen during an open appendectomy:

  • General anesthesia will be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during your surgery. Your surgeon will make an incision in your lower abdomen. Your appendix will be removed. The incision will be closed with stitches, staples, or medical glue.
  • Your surgeon may place a drain in your wound if your appendix has ruptured or pus remains inside your abdomen.

What to expect after surgery:

  • You may need to spend a few nights in the hospital. This may be needed if your appendix ruptured or you have other medical problems.
  • You may be on a clear diet at first. You may be given ice chips and then liquids such as water, broth, juice, or soft drinks. Healthcare providers will tell you when it is okay to eat your regular foods.

Risks of an open appendectomy:

  • Even with surgery, you may develop gangrene (tissue death). You may get a life-threatening blood infection. 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. This may cause bowel obstruction or infertility. Your bowels may stop working. You may get an abscess (pus-filled area) 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.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have chest pain, more pain when you take a deep breath or cough, or you cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You feel lightheaded and have shortness of breath all of a sudden.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your incision is red, swollen, or has pus coming from it.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen and it is swollen.
  • You see a bulge coming out of your surgery site.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, surgery, or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Antibiotics help prevent or fight a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Rest as needed:

You will need to go slowly and rest often. This will help protect the wound and prevent the stitches from coming out. Rest will help you heal. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds. Ask your healthcare provider when it is okay to drive and do your other normal daily activities.

Care for your incision wound as directed:

Keep your wound clean and dry. You may need to cover your wound when you bathe so it does not get wet. When you are allowed to clean your wound, carefully wash it with soap and water, or as directed. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. The strips of medical glue will fall off on their own. If they do not fall off within 10 days, you can gently peel them off. Check your wound for signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or pus.

Care for your drain as directed:

You may go home with a drain coming out of your incision. A drain is a thin rubber tube used to remove extra fluid from your abdomen. Your healthcare provider will take the drain out when there is no more fluid coming from the incision. Ask your healthcare provider how to care for your drain. Do not remove your drain.

Apply ice on your incision wound:

Apply ice on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return to have your stitches or drain removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

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