An appendectomy is a surgery to remove a child’s appendix. The appendix is a small pouch that’s attached to the large intestine. It is on the lower right side of the abdomen.
An appendectomy may be done as an open surgery. This involves cutting into the belly and removing the appendix. Or it may be done through one or several smaller cuts using a camera and small instruments. This is called a laparoscopic surgery.
Doctors still don't fully understand what the appendix does. But it doesn’t seem to be a vital organ. What is known is that it makes proteins called immunoglobulins. These help fight infection in the body.
Sometimes the appendix becomes blocked. Mucus trapped inside can allow bacteria to grow. That can lead to infection and inflammation (appendicitis). This illness is very common in children, teens, and young adults. A young person with this problem may need an appendectomy.
An appendix that is inflamed can burst if it is not taken out. If that happens, infection can spread throughout the belly (abdomen). It can cause a potentially dangerous health problem called peritonitis.
As with other surgeries, the possible risks of this procedure include:
Other possible risks are:
There may be other risks, depending on your child’s health. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about any concerns before the procedure.
An appendectomy is often an emergency surgery. Your child may not have a lot of time to get ready for it. The healthcare team will want to know when your child last ate. That’s because having food in the stomach can cause problems when your child is under anesthesia. If the surgery is planned ahead of time, ask the healthcare provider when your child should stop eating and drinking beforehand.
Before the procedure starts, the healthcare team may give your child a shot of medicine to help him or her relax. Your child will also have an IV (intravenous) line placed into a vein so other medicines can be given. This is how your child will be put to sleep for the surgery.
During an open procedure, the surgeon will make a cut into the skin and the fat underneath. The cut will be 1 to 2 inches long. Upon reaching the appendix, the surgeon will cut it loose and remove it. The surgeon will then close the opening in the intestine and the cut in the skin.
During a laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon will make a few small cuts in the abdomen. The surgeon will put a tiny camera through one cut so he or she can see the procedure on a video screen. The surgeon will put air into the abdomen through a tube to inflate the area so he or she can see better. The surgeon will then remove the appendix using small instruments. When finished, the surgeon will stitch up the opening in the intestine and any cuts in the skin.
If your child’s appendix has burst, a drainage tube may be left in the abdomen to drain away fluid. Sometimes, the surgeon may plan a laparoscopic surgery. But he or she may need to switch to an open surgery because it seems like a safer choice.
After the surgery, your child will go to a recovery room before being sent to a regular room. Some children may be able to go home from the recovery room. Your child will get pain medicine through the IV, then later by mouth.
Your child will be encouraged to get up and move around later that day or the next day. After laparoscopic surgery, your child may feel cramps or shoulder pain. This is referred pain from the air that was put into the abdomen. Children often go home a day or two after the surgery. If the appendix ruptured before the surgery, your child may need to stay in the hospital for up to a week. In these cases, your child may need IV antibiotics for a week or more.
Your child should not do any physical activities until the surgeon says it’s OK. This will usually be at a follow-up visit. Follow the healthcare provider’s directions on bathing and taking care of the incision.
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has:
Before you agree to the test or the procedure for your child make sure you know: