An appendectomy is an operation to remove the appendix, which is a small, tube-like part of the bowel. It often needs to be performed urgently when someone has an infected and inflamed appendix. It is also known as an appendicectomy.
Why is an appendectomy performed?
An appendectomy is usually done because the appendix is inflamed or has burst.
How to prepare for an appendectomy
You will need to fast (have nothing to eat or drink) for at least 6 hours before the operation. You might be given ﬂuids through a drip (intravenously, directly into a vein) so you don't get dehydrated.
Your doctors and nurses will explain the operation. Ask questions if you're not sure about something.
What happens during an appendectomy?
A general anaesthetic is needed for this kind of surgery.
The surgeon might do the appendectomy laparoscopically, through several tiny cuts. Sometimes a larger cut is needed - this is known as an open appendectomy.
During and after the surgery you will be carefully monitored.
What to expect after an appendectomy
When you wake up, you might be disoriented or confused. You might also be in pain.
You’ll be told when you can safely eat and drink. You are likely to be on a drip at ﬁrst, then you will progress to drinking ﬂuids, then soft foods, and then your usual diet once your surgeon thinks you are ready. Don't rush - taking it slowly helps the bowel heal quickly and well.
You’ll need medicine for pain. That might be through the drip at first, then you might change to tablets. You may also need antibiotics through the drip.
You'll probably stay in hospital for 1 to 3 days. Some people need to stay longer if complications occur.
What can go wrong?
All surgery has risks, as does any anaesthetic.
Possible risks include wound infection, infection inside your abdomen, bleeding, damage to the intestine or bladder, and needing to change from a keyhole to an open procedure partway through the surgery.
About surgical procedures
Visit the healthdirect surgical procedures page to learn more about surgical procedures in general, with information including:
Last reviewed: November 2018