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Appendectomy: the removal of the small pouch attached to the beginning of your large intestine when you have an acute bout of appendicitis is one of the most common emergency abdominal surgeries.
The appendix is a small, finger-shaped organ that comes out of the first part of the large intestine. It needs to be removed when it becomes swollen or infected. If the appendix is not removed, it can leak bacteria and infect your entire belly, which can be very life threatening.
So, what are the signs that you have appendicitis?
Well, this condition can be fairly hard to diagnose, especially in children, older people, and women of childbearing age. Usually, the first symptom is pain around your belly button. The pain might be mild at first, but then it gets sharp and severe before not too long. The pain may then move into your right lower abdomen. You may also have diarrhea, fever, nausea, and a reduced appetite. Sometimes, people think that they might be having food poisoning.
Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms. You may also have blood tests and a CT scan or ultrasound. Once it's clear that you have appendicitis, your doctor will probably schedule you for emergency surgery.
In surgery, you will receive anesthesia and be asleep and pain free. The doctor will make a small cut in the lower right side of your belly and remove your appendix. If the surgeon uses the laparoscopic technique, you will have several small cuts in your abdomen for the surgical instruments. If your appendix broke open, or a pocket of infection has formed, you doctor will wash out your belly during the surgery. A small tube may remain to help drain out fluids or pus.
Once you've had an appendectomy, you will probably recover pretty quickly. It feels good to get a bad appendix out. Most patients leave the hospital 1 to 2 days after surgery. The good news is that you'll be able to go back to all those normal activities within 2 to 4 weeks.
- Last reviewed on 11/16/2011
- Mitchell W. Hecht, MD FACP, Internal Medicine private practice in Roswell, GA; author of the nationally-syndicated medical column 'Ask Dr. H.' Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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