Appendicectomy (surgery to remove the appendix)
Appendicitis is when your appendix has become inflamed (swollen), infected or perforated (burst open or ruptured).
The appendix is a small, finger-shaped organ. It sticks out (protrudes) from your bowel (the large intestine) in the lower right side of your tummy (abdomen).
It's difficult to be completely certain that someone has appendicitis.
The standard treatment for suspected appendicitis is to have surgery to remove your appendix. This is called an appendicectomy.
You have the surgery under general anaesthetic. This means that you are asleep and do not feel any pain. You either have:
- keyhole surgery (this is minimally invasive surgery through tiny cuts in the skin)
- open surgery (this is traditional surgery through a larger, open cut in the skin)
As with any surgery, there are some risks. They include:
- finding that the appendix is normal or that something else is causing the problems
- bleeding and bruising
- infection in the wound, inside the tummy or in the chest
There are other risks that are very rare, including:
- injury to other organs or structures
- hernias (weakness in the surrounding muscle)
- reaction to anaesthetic medicines
- not being able to empty the bladder completely (urinary retention), which requires a temporary catheter (a flexible tube used to empty the bladder and collect urine in a drainage bag)
- bloated bowels (ileus)
- blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or chest (pulmonary embolism)
Other treatment options
If the diagnosis of appendicitis is uncertain, it can be better to repeat the assessments and wait to see what happens. We may do scans to help us with the diagnosis.
It might be possible to treat some people with a course of antibiotics and plan surgery for a later date. It's unlikely that antibiotics will treat appendicitis by themselves and you probably need surgery at some time.
For some people, a lump may have formed on the appendix (called an appendix mass). The surgeon might recommend delaying surgery for a few weeks and treat you with antibiotics at first. Sometimes, we can put in a small drain tube for a few days to remove any infection or pus (a thick yellowish liquid or discharge). We do this under local anaesthetic. This means that you are awake, but the area being treated is numb and you do not feel any pain.
After treatment for an appendix mass, we see you at a clinic in a few weeks and plan what to do next.
Giving your permission (consent)
We want to involve you in decisions about your care and treatment. If you decide to have surgery, we ask you to sign a consent form. This says that you agree to have the treatment and understand what it involves.
If you would like more information about our consent process, please speak to a member of staff caring for you.
Resource number: 3691/VER3
Last reviewed: March 2022
Next review: March 2025