Surgery for Appendicitis

Your side may hurt so much that you call your doctor. Or maybe you go straight to the hospital emergency room. After your evaluation, your doctor may decide that you have appendicitis. If so, you will need surgery. Your health care provider will send you to a hospital room or take you right to the operating room. There, your medical team will prepare your for surgery.

Your Experience

You may receive fluids and antibiotics through an IV (intravenous) line. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any antibiotics or other medications. Before surgery, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will also talk to you. He or she will give you general anesthesia just before your appendectomy. This keeps you pain-free and allows you to sleep during the surgery.

Closeup of colon and appendix showing appendix removed and blood vessels sealed off. Colon's link to appendix is sealed off.

During Surgery

The goal of surgery is to remove your appendix safely. In most cases, the surgery lasts from 30 minutes to an hour. If your appendix has burst or perforated releasing bacteria into the abdominal cavity, surgery may take longer. Your surgeon may use 1 of 2 techniques to reach your appendix. Your surgeon will discuss which is best for you:

  • Open surgery. Your surgeon makes 1 incision (several inches long) in your lower right side. He or she makes a bigger incision if  your appendix has perforated.

  • Laparoscopic surgery.Your surgeon makes from 2 to 4 small incisions. One is near your bellybutton. The others are elsewhere on your abdomen. Your doctor inserts a laparoscope, a thin tube with a camera attached, through one of the incisions. The camera shows the inside of your abdomen on a monitor. This image helps guide the surgery. Your doctor inserts surgical tools into the other incisions.

Finishing the Surgery

In most cases, the surgeon closes the entire incision with stitches or staples. Your surgeon may place a temporary drain in the wound or in your abdomen. This helps cure or prevent infection. If your appendix perforated, your doctors may leave the outer layers of your incision open. Leaving the skin open  prevents infection from forming under the skin. It may heal on its own, or be closed about 5 days later.


Most patients recover quickly after an appendectomy. You will likely be in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. If your appendix perforated, you may stay longer. After you return home, plan on a follow-up visit to the doctor in 1 to 2 weeks.

In the Hospital

In most cases, you will drink liquids and walk on the day of your surgery. You will also receive pain medication. To help keep your lungs clear, a health care provider may teach you how to do breathing exercises.

Back at Home

To help control pain from surgery, take your medications as directed. Avoid strenuous activity, heavy lifting, and driving until your surgeon says it is OK. As instructed, slowly resume your normal activities in 7 to 10 days.


Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Swelling, oozing, worsening pain, or unusual redness around the incision

  • Fever (over 101.5°F or 38.5°C)   

  • Worsening abdominal pain

  • Severe diarrhea, bloating, or constipation

  • Nausea or vomiting


Risks and Complications

Risks and complications can include the following:

  • Infection or bleeding from the incision site

  • Infection or swelling in the abdomen, or leakage of bowel material

  • Bowel ileus (delayed return of bowel/intestinal function) or bowel blockage

  • Problems from anesthesia