What is the Appendix?
The human appendix is a small, 3 to 4-inch tube attached to the cecum – the junction that connects the small bowel (intestine) to the large intestine. It is a worm-like appendage (hence the term appendix), that is also termed as ‘cecal appendix’ or ‘vermiform appendix.’
Do I Need My Appendix?
The function of the appendix has always been a topic for debate. Most of us have heard the word “appendicitis,’ and yet, many people are still unaware of the role that it plays in our digestive system.
Some researchers believed that the appendix of our primitive ancestors served as an organ to digest extra roughage. However, this is only a speculation based on the fact that early humans consumed barks of trees and other plants.
According to Oklahoma State University Physiology Professor Loren G. Martin, as published in Scientific American, the human appendix has a function, contrary to popular belief. He stated that our appendix has a role during fetal development. Around 11 weeks, the appendix appears to be endocrine cells, which is responsible for the production of amines and hormones—assisting homeostasis in the body of the fetus.
What is an Appendectomy?
Appendectomy is a surgical procedure performed by experts to remove an inflamed appendix due to appendicitis. An infected appendix can perforate (burst) anytime and release stool or bacteria in the abdominal cavity.
Signs and symptoms of Appendectomy may include:
- Pain in the abdomen which usually begins at the umbilical area that extends to the lower right side
- Loss of appetite
- Increased pressure and pain when walking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Difficulty standing straight
Why Undergo an Appendectomy?
Medication and therapy won’t cure an infected appendix. The only treatment option that can treat appendicitis is an appendectomy. This procedure will not affect long-term health even if it involves removal of the appendix.
It is better to remove the appendix while in the early stages of the disease than wait before it gets worse. If untreated, the appendix will perforate (burst) and release bacteria and other contents into the abdominal cavity, where the intestines and other digestive organs are located. Infection of the abdominal cavity can result in severe health issues.
What Happens Before an Appendectomy?
As with any surgical procedure, a thorough assessment and evaluation are needed before undergoing an appendectomy. Be sure to tell your nurse or physician if you have any allergies. Your surgeon will talk to you regarding the procedure, as well as expectations and possible complications.
What Happens During an Appendectomy?
You may be given intravenous fluids and certain antibiotics during the surgery. Your anesthesiologist and surgeon will also give you anesthetic medication to keep you sedated and unconscious during the entire procedure. This will also keep you pain-free, so you won’t get hurt when the surgeon starts cutting and removing your appendix.
Appendectomy can be done as:
- Open Appendectomy – Also known as open surgery. This is performed by creating an incision that is about 3 inches long in the lower right side of the abdomen.
- Laparoscopic Appendectomy – In a laparoscopic appendectomy, only small incisions are created to remove the appendix. A laparoscope (tiny tube with a built-in camera) is inserted through the incision. The camera helps the surgeon to view and monitor the abdominal contents. It will also serve as a guide during the
Possible Risks of an Appendectomy
Appendectomy is usually a safe procedure. But, like other surgical procedures, they have some risks such as:
- Bleeding or infection on the incision site
- Abscess or swelling in the abdomen
- Bowel blockage
- Leakage of bowel material
- Hernia at the incision site
- Paralytic ileus or slowness of bowel muscles
- Risk of premature delivery (for pregnant individuals)
What Happens After an Appendectomy?
The incisions will be closed either with staples or stitches. You may also have a temporary drainage apparatus in the abdomen. In most cases, patients can go home 1-day post laparoscopic/open appendectomy if there are no complications. If the appendix burst, your hospital stay may be extended.
Follow up visits may be scheduled in 1 to 2 weeks, depending on your surgeon/physician’s discretion.
Appendectomy at Pine Creek Medical Center
Having an appendectomy is the best way to treat infection and inflammation of the appendix. The danger of not treating your appendicitis is life-threatening. Therefore, if you suspect that you have an inflamed appendix, immediately call your family physician or book with one at Pine Creek Medical Center. You can entrust your appendectomy to our board-certified and highly-skilled surgeons.
- “Appendectomy Diagnosis and Surgery.” My HealtheVet Veterans Health Library. <http://www.veteranshealthlibrary.org/resources/flipbooks/general/2211241_VA.pdf>.
- “Appendectomy Surgical Removal of the Appendix.” American College of Surgeons. <http://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/app.ashx>.
- Johnson, Priya. “Appendix Function.” Wasatch County School District / Overview. <http://www.wasatch.edu/cms/lib/UT01000315/Centricity/Domain/903/Mystery%20of%20the%20Appendix.Health.pdf>.