How is appendicitis treated?

After you are diagnosed with appendicitis, the doctor will decide whether to hospitalize you for further observation or send you home.

If you are hospitalized

You will be closely observed for 12 to 24 hours to determine whether surgery is necessary. If your symptoms are extremely severe, your appendix may be removed immediately with an appendectomy.

An appendectomy can also be done as a laparoscopic or "minimally invasive" procedure. During laparoscopic surgery, 5 or 6 small (5 to 10 millimeter) incisions (cuts) are made in the abdomen. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through these incisions. The surgeon is guided by the laparoscope, which transmits a picture of the internal organs on a monitor. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include smaller incisions, less risk of infection, less pain and scarring, and a more rapid recovery.

It is crucial to remove an infected appendix before it ruptures. If an infected appendix ruptures, the infection may move to the abdomen, causing peritonitis (an inflammation of the lining of the abdomen). The rupture may also cause an abscess (infected area) near the place where the appendix ruptured. If the appendix does rupture, the doctor will leave a drainage tube in the abdomen for a few days after surgery to remove fluid.

After surgery, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. You may need to take them for 24 hours or more, depending on whether your appendix ruptured and which areas were affected.

Usually for the first day or so after surgery, you will not be given anything to eat or drink. Then your doctor will allow you to have small amounts of water, then clear liquids, and then some solid foods until you are able to digest foods normally.

If you are sent home

  • Do not use pain medication. Taking pain medication could make it difficult for you to know if the pain from appendicitis gets better or worse.
  • Do not use enemas or laxatives – they increase the risk of a ruptured appendix.
  • Take your temperature every 2 hours and keep a record. Bring it with you when you return to see the doctor.
  • Do not take antibiotics, unless prescribed by your doctor.
  • Contact your doctor if you notice any change in your condition over the next 6-12 hours.
  • You may be asked to bring a urine sample with you when you return in 24 hours for another exam.
  • If you are returning for another exam, do not eat or drink anything on the day of the exam.

Call your physician immediately if

  • You have uncontrolled vomiting.
  • You have increased pain in your abdomen.
  • You are dizzy or faint.
  • There is blood in your vomit or urine.

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