Having surgery

Appendicectomy (surgery to remove the appendix)

Appendicitis is treated with 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.

Before surgery

You see a surgeon who explains the surgery. An anaesthetist checks your general health and explains more about your general anaesthetic. Both answer any questions that you may have. 

You need to have an empty stomach before the surgery. Your nurse and doctor tell you when you need to stop eating and drinking.

During surgery

The operation can be done as either keyhole or open surgery. This depends on your condition.

Keyhole surgery (laparoscopic surgery)

For keyhole surgery, we make several small cuts in your tummy and use special instruments to remove the appendix. 

If your appendix has burst (ruptured), the doctors may not be able to do keyhole surgery. They may need to do open surgery or make a bigger cut down the middle of your tummy. 

Open surgery

In open surgery, we make a cut in the lower right-hand side or middle of your tummy to find and remove your appendix.

If you have an abscess on your appendix, we will drain and wash this away. We may leave in a small drain tube for a few days after your surgery.

We close any wounds with stitches or glue.

After surgery

If your appendix has not ruptured, you can go home on the same day or the day after.

You wake up in the recovery area, where we monitor you. When you have recovered, we take you back to the ward. Here, we continue to monitor your blood pressure, your pulse and the wound. 

You can start to drink after the operation and eat when you feel hungry, unless we give you different advice. 

You can get out of bed a few hours after your surgery. The nurses can help you when you first try to do this. 

You may feel drowsy (sleepy) for a day or so while the anaesthetic wears off. Try to relax and rest during this time. For at least 24 hours after surgery, you should not: 

  • make any important decisions 
  • sign any legal documents
  • operate machinery

Read more about what to do after having a general anaesthetic.

If your appendix has burst (ruptured)

If you have a ruptured appendix, you may need to stay in hospital for longer. 

A more serious complication of this rupture is called peritonitis. This is when the peritoneum becomes red and swollen (inflamed). The peritoneum is the layer of tissue that lines the tummy and the organs inside it. Again, this means that you stay longer in hospital.

Pain

It is common to have some pain in your tummy and around the wound for several days after your surgery. You can take regular painkillers to ease the pain. 

If you had keyhole surgery, you may get some pain in your shoulder. This is caused by the gas that we put in your tummy during the surgery. Your body takes in the gas. Walking around can help this to improve.

You may also have a sore throat afterwards. This is caused by the breathing tube that we put in your throat for the general anaesthetic. The pain goes away in a day or two.

Your tummy may feel bloated (swollen with air) afterwards, but this settles in time. 

Leaving hospital

You can usually leave hospital on the day of the surgery or the day after, unless the appendicitis was severe. You can go home when you:

  • feel ready
  • can eat and drink without feeling sick
  • have no signs of infection
  • have had your wound checked to make sure it is OK
  • can get out of bed and move around
  • can manage your pain at home with tablets

If you go home on the day of your surgery, you will need a responsible adult to collect you and stay with you overnight.

Resource number: 3691/VER3
Last reviewed: March 2022
Next review due: March 2025

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns after surgery to remove your appendix, please contact the ward where you were treated.

Nightingale ward, phone: 020 7188 8865

Northumberland ward, phone: 020 7188 8866 

Page ward, phone: 020 7188 8867

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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