Appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch attached to the large bowel. While this procedure can treat small appendix tumors, it is most commonly performed for appendicitis, a condition characterized by an infected appendix. Appendicitis can cause an appendix to rupture, or burst open. A ruptured appendix can only be treated with an appendectomy. For an unruptured appendix, if antibiotics alone are sufficient to cure the infection, an appendectomy is considered a preventive measure.
There are two approaches to performing an appendectomy: open or laparoscopic. In the open approach, a large incision is made on the lower right portion of the belly, through which the appendix is taken out. The laparoscopic method requires one to three tiny cuts on the abdomen, where surgical instruments are passed through, allowing the surgeon to remove the appendix without making a large incision. This approach is less invasive than the open procedure, but it cannot be performed if the infection is at an advanced stage or if the appendix has ruptured.
Appendectomies typically require a hospital stay of about one to two days. In some cases, the laparoscopic approach may be done as a day procedure. Removal of an unruptured appendix requires about a week off from work or school, and recovery from a ruptured appendix takes roughly twice as long. Strenuous activities like lifting or working out should be avoided for about two weeks following an open appendectomy and about five days following a laparoscopic appendectomy.