Guide To Appendicitis Treatment And Recovery

August 29, 2023

Appendicitis develops when the appendix, an organ in the lower right side of the abdomen, becomes inflamed. This condition can be caused by viral infections, and it may also occur due to infection with bacteria such as Clostridium, E. coli, or Streptococci. The appendix may become inflamed as a result of an obstruction due to fecal matter, a foreign body, or roundworm or threadworm infections. Appendicitis occurs most often in patients between ten and thirty years old, and individuals who have a family history of the condition are thirty percent more likely to develop it themselves. In the early stages of appendicitis, patients might experience sudden pain in the lower right side of the abdomen; the pain sometimes begins near the belly button, and it may worsen with coughing or walking. Nausea, abdominal bloating, and vomiting have been reported. To diagnose this condition, doctors will perform a physical examination of the abdomen to check for pain. Patients may need to have imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scans, or ultrasounds to confirm the diagnosis. Since appendicitis may cause the organ to rupture, patients should seek urgent medical treatment as soon as they notice any symptoms that could be related to their appendix.

Course Of Antibiotics

A study completed in 2015 suggests roughly eighty percent of adult appendicitis patients could be safely treated with a course of antibiotics instead of an appendectomy. Before offering antibiotics, doctors will need to confirm the patient has a mild form of the condition, and this requires a CT scan. Patients who are given antibiotics will be closely monitored for any worsening symptoms, and surgery may still be necessary if there is no improvement. If the more serious form of appendicitis is detected on the CT scan, patients will be given emergency surgery, as antibiotics are not effective in this case. After having an appendectomy, some patients will be given oral or intravenous antibiotics during their recovery. For example, patients who are recovering from complex acute appendicitis generally need to receive antibiotics for two to five days.


An appendectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the appendix. The procedure can help prevent potential complications from appendicitis, including a rupture or the formation of an abscess. Depending on the patient's condition, an appendectomy may be performed as an emergency procedure in a hospital, or it might be done at a scheduled time at an outpatient facility. Most patients receive general anesthesia for the operation, and it can be performed using either open or laparoscopic methods. In the open method, doctors make a single incision in the lower right side of the abdomen. They remove the appendix, and they may clean the abdominal cavity if needed. Then, the wound is closed with stitches. Open surgery is necessary for patients who have a ruptured appendix that has spread the infection to surrounding organs. Doctors also prefer to use the open technique if a patient has had previous abdominal surgery. A laparoscopic approach is especially beneficial for overweight individuals and older adults. This procedure allows the doctor to visualize and access the appendix via a camera and other instruments inserted into several small incisions in the abdomen. Laparoscopic surgery typically offers a faster recovery time and a lower risk of complications compared to an open procedure.

Avoid Strenuous Activity

Individuals recovering from an appendectomy will need to avoid strenuous activity. Vigorous exercise and fast movements may damage the stitches used to close the incisions, and this could delay the patient's recovery. Bicycle riding, jogging, strength training, and aerobic exercise (other than a short, gentle walk) should all be avoided. Lifting of children, grocery bags, and backpacks is not recommended during this time. Patients who have had a laparoscopic procedure should restrict their activities for at least the first three to five days after the operation, and individuals who had open surgery will need a minimum of ten to fourteen days of activity restriction. In addition to avoiding strenuous activity, patients will need to prioritize rest and sleep as much as possible. A doctor's clearance is necessary before the patient resumes their normal routine and before they resume any fitness programs. Typically, it takes about two or three weeks to completely recover after an appendectomy.

Support Abdomen Appropriately

Doctors routinely advise patients recovering from any kind of abdominal surgery that they will need to support their abdomen appropriately for optimal healing. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, and moving could cause pain. To reduce discomfort, patients may want to place a pillow over their lower abdomen as soon as possible during coughing or laughing. While holding the pillow, they should apply light pressure to support their abdominal muscles. Having a pillow nearby at all times will make this process easier, and patients should aim to move as slowly and gently as possible. Although supporting the abdomen can help, patients recovering from surgery should let their doctor know if they have any worsening abdominal pain, and they should check the incision sites for signs of bleeding, discharge, or pus. Although a greenish discharge is a healthy sign of healing, a discharge of bright red blood that soaks through a bandage will need medical attention, and patients also need to seek care if their stitches loosen.

Pain Medication

Prescription pain medication is typically provided to patients who have had an appendectomy, though some might choose to take over-the-counter pain relievers during their recovery. Patients should ensure they follow all instructions when taking any medication, and it is crucial to avoid exceeding the recommended dosage. Since some prescription pain relievers could cause dizziness or drowsiness, patients should not drive or operate heavy machinery while on these medicines. Individuals who opt to use over-the-counter medicines should avoid taking more than one type of medicine that contains acetaminophen. Patients who experience an upset stomach while taking pain relievers might want to ask their doctor about whether it is okay to take their medication after a meal. All patients should inform their healthcare team if they have pain that persists or worsens despite the use of pain relievers.

Abscess Drainage

One serious potential complication from appendicitis is when an abscess, a pocket of pus, forms in the abdomen. This occurs when the appendix bursts and the pus floods the rest of the patient's system. A burst appendix is a life-threatening medical emergency. An abscess must be drained by a skilled surgeon. In the majority of cases, the surgeon will insert a tube into the abscess by cutting through the abdominal wall. This allows them to drain the pus from the abdominal cavity so it doesn't interfere with other organs. Rather than being completed in one surgery, the tube is kept in the abdomen for around two weeks. Patients will be prescribed a course of antibiotics to help clear the infection out of their system. When an abscess forms, it must be drained in emergency surgery before an appendectomy can be scheduled.

Get Plenty Of Rest

After patients have been through the appendectomy, they need to get plenty of rest. An appendectomy is a major surgery that requires some recovery time at home. Patients might feel lethargic, weak, and unusually exhausted for multiple days following the procedure. They'll need to rest rather than returning to work or school immediately. It's common for a patient's abdomen to swell slightly after surgery, and they might experience pain. Patients whose appendectomy was done through laparoscopic surgery might find one shoulder might hurt for about a day. Some patients experience nausea, diarrhea, gas, constipation, or a headache. Patients will need to talk to a doctor about their recovery needs following the surgery. The amount of time recovery takes will vary depending on the type of surgery, whether there were any complications or not, the patient's overall physical health, and the patient's age. It usually takes about one to three weeks to recover from laparoscopic surgery. Open surgery has a longer recovery time, clocking in at two to four weeks.

Drink Plenty Of Fluids

Patients will be very tired after the surgery to remove their appendix. Many are lethargic enough that they lose track of time and fail to eat or drink enough. But it's vital for patients to keep drinking fluids as part of the recovery process. The first day after surgery, patients should only have clear fluids rather than eating anything solid. They should also drink a lot of water. Fluids are necessary for staying hydrated during the recovery period. The best drink individuals can have is water, but fruit juices and sports drinks might help their electrolyte balance as long as the doctor says it's okay. Patients should avoid caffeine and very acidic fluids. When patients experience nausea following surgery, doctors recommend upping their fluid intake and making sure they're sipping water regularly until the nausea passes. If patients are worried about getting dehydrated, they can consume chicken broth or another drink with a high sodium content. This will help increase fluid retention in the body. While a lot of sodium isn't good for a long-term diet, it can help temporarily ease dehydration.

Keep Incision Clean And Dry

Doctors will give patients specific instructions on how to care for their incision following the surgery. At the core of the instructions will be to keep the wound dry and clean. If patients don't follow the correct protocol with their bandages or allow debris to get into the wound, it can become infected. Wounds from open surgery are more likely to become infected than wounds from laparoscopic surgery, but any major surgery comes with some risk of infection. If patients had open surgery, there may be one incision or several in their abdomen. They'll be covered in gauze and taped bandages following the surgery. Two days after getting home from the surgery, patients will need to take the bandage off the wounds. Patients should not put new bandages onto the wounds. They also shouldn't remove the sterilized strips of gauze. The strips must stay where they are for a minimum of seven to ten days. If they're removed early, the risk of infection becomes much higher.

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