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A procedure to remove an inflamed appendix and prevent complications of appendicitis

Woman needing an Appendectomy having side pain while sitting on her bed at home
An appendectomy, also known as an appendicectomy, is a procedure to remove your appendix. It is generally only performed when you have appendicitis, which is a condition that occurs when your appendix swells and becomes inflamed, often causing intense pain. In England, around 50,000 people are admitted to hospital with appendicitis every year.

Who performs an appendectomy?

The procedure is most commonly performed by a general consultant surgeon or a paediatric surgeon (appendicitis is more common in children, so paediatric doctors need to be experienced in performing an appendectomy). At Circle Health Group, we have a dedicated network of thousands of specialists who are highly experienced in removing your appendix, helping you avoid any complications with your appendix and tummy in the future.

Your appendix is a thin pouch that sits in your lower belly and is connected to your large intestine, where your poo forms. While your appendix helps your body fight infection and works as part of your immune system when you are a child, it doesn't really play a part in your everyday bodily function when you are an adult. Anyone can live without an appendix, which is why your consultant can remove it if you have appendicitis.

What is appendicitis?

It is not 100% clear what causes appendicitis, but it is a word used to describe the painful swelling and inflammation of your appendix. The entrance to your appendix can become blocked by a small piece of poo, or you might have a urinary tract infection that causes the lymph node within the wall of your bowel to swell, putting pressure on your appendix and causing it to burst. Because the cause of appendicitis is not clear, it is impossible to prevent, but it is very treatable because an appendectomy cures the problem.

The condition usually begins with intermittent pain in the middle of your tummy. This pain can quickly travel to the lower right-hand side of your tummy where your appendix sits. It can become constant and severe, causing some people to sweat and vomit due to the pain. Pressing on the area of your appendix or coughing and walking can make the pain worse. Appendicitis can often go together with sickness and diarrhoea, or you might become constipated or lose your appetite.

If your appendix bursts, the lining of your tummy will become infected with bacteria. This is called peritonitis and can be a complication of appendicitis. Symptoms of a burst appendix include a high temperature, rapid heartbeat, swelling of your tummy, and feeling sick. Most people are treated for appendicitis with an appendectomy before their appendix ruptures.

An appendectomy is typically performed using a laparoscopic technique (keyhole surgery). This is a minimally invasive approach that helps your appendix recover faster than it would with open surgery. The surgery is usually performed under general anaesthetic, meaning you will not be awake or feel anything during it. Your consultant will begin by making three or four small incisions in your tummy. Next, they will insert the laparoscope into your abdomen (this is a small tube with a light and camera attached to it, which relays images of the inside of your tummy to a television monitor). They then insert specialist instruments through the incisions to surgically remove your appendix.

Once the operation is complete, the incisions will be closed with dissolvable stitches that will dissolve naturally over time. The surgery generally takes around one hour to perform.

You will need to be monitored in hospital for a while after surgery to ensure your infection has settled. Your healthcare team will want to know that you can eat and drink properly and go to the toilet before you leave.

You can wash as usual from the day after the operation using water and shower gel, but it is best to avoid swimming until the areas around your incisions are fully healed. Your surgeon will ensure you know how to take care of the dressing over your incisions, which can usually be left on for several days (you can shower with these on too). You can also get up and walk as soon as you want after surgery, but you might not be able to walk long distances and require some assistance and support when walking initially.

Most people can return home within two days. You will likely be in pain and discomfort when you get home as you recover, but you can take pain medication for this. The areas around your incisions might feel achy and tender, and you might feel increased pain at first when coughing or sneezing. This will resolve as the days go on.

Most people need around two weeks off work after the procedure to rest and recover at home, and the same goes for driving and more strenuous activities such as sport. Your consultant will be able to assess your individual circumstances and offer you an understanding of when it is safest for you to return to work, driving, and more high-impact exercise.

Most people recover fully from an appendectomy within three weeks, returning to normal life and daily activities without pain or discomfort.

Complications from any surgery include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Hernias
  • Blood clots
  • Scars

Complications specific to appendectomy include:

  • Damage to the surrounding areas
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Continued bowel paralysis
  • Developing a leak where your appendix has been cut off from your bowel

All of these risk factors are rare. Speak with your consultant about them in more detail – they will be able to reassure you and put your mind at ease.

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about having your appendix removed.

How painful is appendix surgery?

The surgery itself is not painful because you will be under general anaesthesia throughout, however your tummy will feel tender and sore when you wake up. This can last for a few weeks as you recover.

Why am I so tired after having my appendix out?

It is very common to feel tired after any procedure. This is because your body is using energy to replenish and heal after going through a major event. We recommend resting for as long as possible after surgery. Listen to your body and be gentle with yourself as you rest and recover.

Is appendectomy a common surgery?

An appendectomy is a common emergency surgery that usually takes around an hour to perform.

Can your appendix grow back?

No, after you have your appendix removed it cannot grow back, meaning you can only have an appendectomy once in your lifetime.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose your hospital and your consultant
  • Bespoke, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Private en-suite rooms as standard
  • Tasty and nutritious meals cooked onsite to your dietary requirements
  • Support from the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help spread the cost of your care

If you want to know more about appendicectomy and find out if it's the right treatment for you, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in March 2023. Next review due March 2026.

  1. Appendectomy, Johns Hopkins Medicine
  2. Treatment for appendicitis, NHS
  3. Appendectomy, NHS Foundation Trust

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