The appendix is a small, finger-shaped organ that comes out from the first part of the large intestine. It is removed when it becomes swollen (inflamed) or infected. An appendix that has a hole in it (perforated) can leak and infect the entire abdomen area, which can be life threatening.
When the diagnosis is not clear, the doctor may order a CT scan or ultrasound to make sure the appendix is the cause of the problem.
There are no actual tests to confirm that you have appendicitis. Other illnesses can cause the same or similar symptoms.
The goal is to remove an infected appendix before it breaks open (ruptures). After reviewing your symptoms and the results of the physical exam and medical tests, your surgeon will decide whether you need surgery.
Even when the surgeon finds that the appendix is not infected, it will be removed to prevent future problems.
Risks from any anesthesia include the following:
Reactions to medications
Risks from any surgery include the following:
Other risks with an appendectomy after a ruptured appendix include the following:
Buildup of pus, which may need draining and antibiotics
Longer hospital stays
Side effects from medications
After the Procedure
Patients tend to recover quickly after a simple appendectomy. Most patients leave the hospital in 1 - 2 days after surgery. You can go back to your normal activities within 2 - 4 weeks after leaving the hospital.
Patients who have the appendix removed through small surgical cuts tend to recover and get back to their daily activities faster.
Recovery is slower and more complicated if the appendix has broken open or an abscess has formed.
Living without an appendix causes no known health problems.
Howell JM, Eddy OL, Lukens TW, Thiessen ME, Weingart SD, Decker WW; American College of Emergency Physicians. Clinical policy: Critical issues in the evaluation and management of emergency department patients with suspected appendicitis. Ann Emerg Med. 2010;55:71-116.
Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.