An appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix, which is located in the right lower side of the abdomen. This operation is usually carried out on an emergency basis to treat appendicitis (inflamed appendix). This may occur as a result of an obstruction in part of the appendix. Another name for this operation is an appendectomy.
Some common symptoms of appendicitis are nausea, vomiting, constipation and pain. The pain is initially felt in the center of the abdomen and later moves to become a sharper pain in the right lower abdomen. The area is tender to touch. Occasionally, some of these symptoms may be absent and it becomes necessary to investigate the abdominal cavity to make a diagnosis.
Problems Associated With Appendicitis
Appendicitis occurs when the appendix is blocked and becomes infected due to an invasion of intestinal bacteria. There is no single cause, but appendicitis may be due to:
- A bowel adhesion
- Swelling of the lymphatic tissue of the appendix due to a viral infection
- A foreign body
- A faecalith (a small, hard mass of faeces), which causes blockage, inflammation and infection.
If appendicitis is left untreated, it may cause the appendix to rupture (burst). If the appendix ruptures, the infected contents flow into the abdominal cavity. This can cause a much more serious medical emergency known as peritonitis, which is inflammation of the membranes lining the abdominal wall and organs. Without prompt treatment, peritonitis can be life threatening.
Surgery is the preferred treatment for appendicitis. Delaying the operation (in the hope that the appendix will ‘settle down’) only increases the risk of suffering a ruptured appendix.
Appendectomy can be performed as a laparoscopic surgery (minimally invasive surgery) or as a traditional open operation. Laparoscopy leaves a smaller and much less visible scar and recover time may be faster.