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Appendectomy

Alternate Names

  • laparoscopic appendectomy
  • Appendicitis

Definition

An appendectomy is surgery to remove the appendix, a small, finger-shaped pouch found at the junction of the small and large intestines.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Usually, appendectomies are done on people who have an infected or ruptured appendix. Because the appendix serves no function that medical scientists have been able to identify, and because infection of the appendix can be so dangerous, a healthy appendix is sometimes removed if the abdomen is already open for another operation, such as an abdominal hysterectomy. This is done only when it will not add risks to the main surgery or call for an additional incision.
Many conditions, such as pelvic infections, gastroenteritis (inflammation or infection of the stomach or intestines) and ovarian problems, cause symptoms similar to appendicitis. Exploratory surgery sometimes must be done to confirm appendicitis. Sometimes, even when a surgeon cannot be sure there is a problem, he or she will take out the appendix to be safe.

How is the procedure performed?

The surgery can be done in two ways:
  • In an open appendectomy, a incision is made through the wall of the lower belly on the right side.
  • In a laparoscopic appendectomy three small cuts are made in the belly button and abdomen. Carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the abdomen to separate the organs. A scope that lets the surgeon see inside the body and tiny surgical tools are passed through the incisions. If the appendix is ruptured, the surgeon may have to convert the procedure to an open surgery.
Usually, just an artery and a veil of thin tissue links the appendix to the intestines. Once the surgeon opens up the abdomen, it is a relatively simple job to clamp off tissues and the artery so that the organ can be safely removed.

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