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4-minute read

Key facts

  • An appendicectomy is an operation to remove your appendix.
  • The surgeon might do the operation laparoscopically (by keyhole surgery) or as an open procedure.
  • You will probably stay in hospital for 2 to 3 days.

What is an appendicectomy?

An appendicectomy is an operation to remove your appendix. Your appendix is a small pouch attached to a part of your large intestine (bowel).

An appendicectomy often needs to be done urgently if you have appendicitis (an infected or inflamed appendix). The operation is also known as an appendectomy.

Why is an appendicectomy performed?

An appendicectomy is usually done because your appendix is inflamed or has burst.

How to prepare for an appendicectomy

The hospital will tell you how long you should fast for (have nothing to eat or drink) before the operation.

Your doctors and nurses will explain the operation. Ask questions if you're not sure about something.

You may be given antibiotics.

What happens during an appendicectomy?

A general anaesthetic is needed for this kind of surgery. This means that you will be put to sleep, so you won’t feel any pain during the operation.

During and after the surgery you will be carefully monitored. You might be given fluids through a drip (intravenously, directly into a vein) so you don't get dehydrated.

You are likely to be given pain relief and may also need antibiotics.

Laparoscopic surgery

Your surgeon might do the appendicectomy laparoscopically, through tiny cuts in your abdomen (tummy). This is also called keyhole surgery.

Appendicectomies that are done in this way are linked to:

  • lower rates of wound infection
  • shorter hospital stays
  • better quality of life scores

Laparoscopic surgery also has less scarring and allows you to get back to your normal activities more quickly.

Open surgery

An appendicectomy can also be done through open surgery. This is the traditional way that appendicectomies were done, using a larger cut in your skin.

Your surgeon may choose to use an ‘open approach’ from the start of the procedure.

Sometimes your surgeon may change from laparoscopic surgery to open surgery during the operation. This might be because they need better access or there is an infection in your abdomen (peritonitis).

What to expect after an appendicectomy

When you wake up, you might be disoriented or confused. You might also be in pain.

You will be told when you can safely eat and drink. You are likely to have fluids through a drip at first. You will then progress to drinking fluids.

Once your surgeon thinks you are ready, you can start eating soft foods, before returning to your usual diet.

You will need medicine for pain. This might be through the drip at first, then you might change to tablets. You may also need antibiotics through the drip. Antibiotic therapy may continue for several days after surgery.

You will probably stay in hospital for 2 to 3 days. Some people need to stay in hospital longer. This may be because the operation was due to a ruptured appendix, or there were complications during surgery.

What are the risks of appendicectomy?

All surgery has risks, as does any anaesthetic.

Possible problems include:

  • finding that your appendix is normal and not causing your problem
  • a wound infection
  • an intra-abdominal abscess (an infection inside your abdomen)
  • paralytic ileus (when your bowel temporarily stops contracting normally)
  • bleeding and bruising

Other risks are very rare.

Resources and support

If you want to know more about appendicectomy, you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also learn more about surgical procedures in general, including:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024

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