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What is an Appendectomy?

An appendectomy is surgery to remove the appendix.  The appendix is a narrow sack that hangs down from the large bowel (see picture). The appendix may be removed during other surgeries, such as bowel surgery, or for appendicitis. Appendicitis is when the appendix becomes enlarged and infected.  If appendicitis is not treated in a day or two, the appendix may break open or rupture.  When the appendix ruptures, the infection spreads inside the belly. This is called perforated appendicitis.

Signs and symptoms of appendicitis:

  • Right lower belly pain
  • Lack of hunger
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Belly pain becomes worse when the child moves or coughs
  • Fever 

Having an appendectomy

Before surgery, your child will have an IV started for fluids and medicines. Your child will go to sleep with a medicine called an anesthetic, so your child will not feel anything during surgery. An appendectomy can be done two ways, by laparoscope or open surgery.

  • Laparoscopic method: After your child is asleep, the surgeon will insert a thin metal tube with a camera through a tiny cut he/she makes in your child’s belly button. Two other small cuts are made for tools used during the operation. The appendix will be removed through the tube.
  • Open surgery: After your child is asleep, the doctor will make a small cut on the right side of the belly. This small cut is called an incision or wound (see picture). The doctor will remove the appendix through this small opening. The surgery will take about an hour to an hour and a half.

What to expect after surgery:

  • Your child may be sleepy for the rest of the day.
  • The doctor will order medicine for pain relief.
  • The stitches will be under the skin and will dissolve.
  • Steri strips (small, white tape bandages) will be placed over the wound.
  • There may be a small amount of bloody drainage on the steri strips.
  • The doctor will tell you when your child may eat. Usually, this is a few hours after the operation.
  • Your child's temperature may be increased (101º to 102º) for a few days.
  • Your child may still feel sick and vomit after surgery if there is infection in the belly.
  • An IV will be needed for fluids and/or antibiotics, which may result in a longer hospital stay.
  • Your child may require a special IV called a PICC line.
  • The wound may have a drain or tube if your child has infection.
  • Your child may have a tube in his/her nose that goes into the stomach. This is to keep the stomach empty and will be removed before your child starts eating and drinking. 

Special Care:

  • Keep wound clean and dry for at least 48 hours after surgery; no tub baths or showers during this time.
  • Steri strips should remain on the incision at least 5 days. If these begin to peel off, that is okay. No submersion during this time.
  • Your child's doctor will tell you when he/she can return to school. Usually in 3-4 days.
  • Your child should not take gym class, play sports or climbing games or ride bikes until his/her doctor says it is okay (usually in 3 weeks).
  • Your child's doctor will send you home with a prescription for pain medications and possibly antibiotics.

When to call your child's doctor:

You will receive a follow-up call from a nurse 2-3 weeks after your child’s surgery. In the meantime, if you have any concerns or questions, please call the doctor’s office at 668-7703.  It is important that you call the doctor’s office if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Your child vomits after he/she eats or drinks
  • Your child's wound looks red or has any drainage
  • There is a lot of swelling or the wound is hot to touch
  • Your child's temperature is greater than 101.5º rectally or by mouth, slight fevers are normal
  • There is a gap at the wound site

Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/2017

(757) 668-7000