The appendix is a small, nonessential organ attached to the bowel. When it becomes inflamed or infected, the appendix is removed to prevent rupture. Two procedures are used to remove the appendix -- open appendectomy, with a larger incision that allows the surgeon to see the appendix, or laparoscopic appendectomy, a less invasive procedure that uses a camera to view this organ. Risks or side effects vary, depending on the procedure used, as well as the age and general health of the patient.
Surgery and Anesthesia
Certain side effects are possible with any surgical procedure, including appendectomies. These potential complications include pneumonia, blood clots, hernia, heart attacks, reactions to anesthesia and, rarely, excessive bleeding or death. Complications, length of stay in the hospital and number of deaths are lower when the laparoscopic procedure is used compared to the open procedure.
Pain is a normal side effect of any surgical procedure, but the severity will vary among individuals. Surgeons routinely order medication for pain control as needed. Patients should be aware that gas is pushed into the abdomen during laparoscopic appendectomy, which later causes pain in the shoulder. Walking helps to dissipate the gas, which may decrease pain.
Peritonitis, a dangerous infection of the abdominal cavity, occurs when the appendix ruptures and leaks into the abdomen. This occurs most frequently among the elderly, young children and pregnant women. A ruptured appendix can also cause sepsis, a life-threatening infection in the bloodstream that must be treated with antibiotics.
Wound infections are more common with open surgery techniques. Symptoms that should be reported to the surgeon include fever, redness, swelling, bleeding or foul-smelling drainage from the incision.
Temporary bowel obstruction caused by swelling in the tissues around the bowel may develop after appendix surgery, preventing stool and gas from passing normally. Symptoms include pain, a distended abdomen, inability to pass gas and absence of bowel sounds. Constipation is a more common issue after appendectomy, in part due to medications taken for postoperative pain.