The appendix is what’s known as a “vestigial organ”, which means that it doesn’t have a necessary function to the modern human. The organ produces immunoglobulins, a protein that destroys bacteria and helps fight infection.
But due to modern hygiene and medicine, the appendix doesn’t serve an essential function anymore. Removing the appendix has been shown not to increase risk for infection, and sometimes the immune system overreacts and attacks the good bacteria in the appendix, causing appendicitis.
What is Appendicitis?
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, usually caused by a blockage in the lining of the appendix, which leads to infection. Bacteria can quickly multiply, which causes inflammation, swelling, and the accumulation of pus in the appendix. Appendicitis is most common in people between the ages of 10 years old and 30 years old, but it can occur at any age.
Without treatment, appendicitis can have dangerous complications including rupture, which causes infection to spread through the abdomen and can be life-threatening.
Most people associate appendicitis with a pain in the lower right abdomen. But many people notice pain that begins in the navel and moves as inflammation worsens, with pain increasingly becoming severe.
Signs of appendicitis can include:
- Sudden pain in the right side of the lower abdomen
- Sudden pain the the naval, which spreads to the right side of the abdomen
- Abdominal pain that worsens with coughing, walking or sudden movement
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Low fever that progressively gets worse
- Gastrointestinal upset like constipation or diarrhea
- Bloating or flatulence
Seek emergency care for severe abdominal pain.
Surgical Treatment for Appendicitis
The standard treatment for appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix. There are two surgical methods to remove the appendix, open or laparoscopic appendectomy. One out of every 2,000 people has an appendectomy sometime during their lifetime.
In an open appendectomy, an incision is made in the lower, right side of the abdomen to remove the appendix. The incision is usually about 2 to 4 inches long.
In most laparoscopic appendectomies, surgeons operate through 3 small incisions (each ¼ to ½ inch) while watching an enlarged image of your internal organs on a television monitor. In some cases, one of the small openings may be lengthened to 2 or 3 inches to complete the procedure.
Dr. Abtin Khosravi is an expert at laparoscopic appendectomy. He uses a narrow tube-like instrument called a cannula to enter the abdomen. A laparoscope (a tiny telescope connected to a video camera) is inserted through the cannula, giving Dr. Khosravi a magnified view of your internal organs on a television monitor. Several other cannulas are inserted to allow Dr. Khosravi to work inside and remove the appendix. The entire procedure may be completed through the cannulas or by lengthening one of the small cannula incisions. A drain may be placed during the procedure. This will be removed before you leave the hospital.
Advantages of Laparoscopic Appendectomy
There may be some advantages to a laparoscopic appendectomy. Results can vary depending on each patient and the type of procedure. Some common advantages of a procedure done laparoscopically include:
- Less postoperative pain
- Less scarring
- Shorter hospital stay
- Shorter recovery time
- Lower infection rates
- May result in a quicker return to bowel function
Is Laparoscopic Appendectomy Right for You?
Laparoscopic appendectomy may not be right for every patient, even though it has some benefits. Laparoscopic surgery is usually an option for appendicitis that is caught early and when the appendix hasn’t ruptured. But if the appendix has burst or if there is an advanced infection, an open procedure with a larger incision may be required.
Sometimes a laparoscopic surgery may have to be converted to an open surgery for safety reasons. Some factors that can increase the possibility of converting to the “open” procedure may include:
- Extensive infection and/or abscess
- An appendix that is perforated
- Scar tissue from prior abdominal surgery
- Poor visibility of the organs
- Bleeding complications during surgery.
After Laparoscopic Appendectomy
After surgery, it’s very important to follow all your surgeon’s instructions. Even if you feel better, it’s important to give your body the proper time to heal.
1 Day After Surgery
The first day after surgery, you are encouraged to get out of bed and walk. This can help reduce the risk of blood clots in the legs and soreness in the muscles.
1-2 Weeks After Surgery
Within one to two weeks after surgery, you should be able to return to most of your usual activities, including showering, driving, using stairs, working, and sex.If you experience soreness that doesn’t get better with pain medication, you should notify Dr. Khosravi.
One to two weeks after surgery, you’ll have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Khosravi to check up and make sure everything is healing properly.
With any surgery, there are always risks of complications, but the risks from laparoscopic appendectomy are not higher than for open surgery. It’s important to recognize early signs of possible complications. Contact Dr. Khosravi if you have severe abdominal pain, fever, chills or rectal bleeding
Complications can include:
- Removal of a normal appendix
- A leak at the edge of the colon where the appendix was removed
- Injury to adjacent organs such as the small intestine, ureter, or bladder.
- Blood clot to the lungs
Call Dr. Khosravi with any of these symptoms after surgery:
- Fever of 101° + that won’t go away
- Increasing abdominal swelling
- Pain that is not relieved by your medications
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Persistent cough or shortness of breath
- Purulent drainage (pus) from any incision
- Redness surrounding any of your incisions that is worsening or getting bigger
- You are unable to eat or drink liquids
Contact us to learn more
Our practice is a leading provider of advanced laparoscopic and robotic surgery, serving patients in the Orange County and greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. To learn more about our surgical procedures, call (714)-541-4996 or request an appointment online.