When the appendix (a part of the intestines) becomes inflamed, it usually has to be removed surgically through a procedure called appendectomy. This may be performed as an open procedure involving an incision that is about 5-10 centimeters or 2-4 inches long at the right lower abdomen. Alternatively, an appendectomy may be done using a laparoscope, which involves small abdominal incisions where long instruments with an attached video camera enter through the openings in the skin. This allows the surgeon to visualize and remove the inflamed appendix in a minimally invasive procedure that allows rapid healing and less scarring. However, if the appendix is infected and is ruptured, the infection may spread and an abscess may form. This may require an open surgical procedure to allow the surgeon to clean up the spillage in the abdominal cavity.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Appendectomy?
It usually takes about 2-3 weeks to patients to completely recover; however, that time would vary a lot depending on factors like surgery type, age, etc.
- Type of surgery done - Appendectomy recovery time after a laparoscopic surgery is markedly shorter than that of open surgery. This is because laparoscopy is less invasive and involves less tissue trauma. Complications are also less likely to occur. Post-operative pain is likely to last only for 12 hours in these patients, and they may be discharged from the hospital after only one day. On the other hand, patients who had an open surgery may experience more severe pain, which can last for about 36 hours, and they may have to stay in the hospital for about three days.
- The patient's overall state of health - Depending on patient's status before and after the operation, the recovery time may be affected. A patient in perfect health may be discharged after one to three days, depending also on other factors, while those with poor health may need more medical attention.
- The patient's age - Younger children may need medical care longer than older children or adults. About three weeks may be needed for children up to 10 years old to fully recover, while older patients may need 10 to 28 days of care. Resumption of normal activities usually occurs after 4-6 weeks from surgery.
- Patients with a ruptured appendix - Patients who are admitted with a ruptured appendix are usually in serious condition and may undergo a longer surgical time. Recovery time is also extended because they need more time to complete antibiotic treatment, undergo more extensive wound healing, and recover from other possible complications.
For clearer idea of what to expect for your recovery, see what the doctor's got to say:
Appendectomy Recovery Care
Full recovery from an appendectomy requires proper care to encourage wound healing and avoid complications. One must observe the following for precaution:
- Get as much rest as you can. If your appendix was removed using a laparoscope, avoid strenuous activities especially on the first 3-5 days. Patients who underwent an open surgery should not do strenuous activities for the next 10-14 days. It is best to ask your surgeon when you can start doing your regular activities.
- Support your abdominal muscles whenever you cough or laugh. These actions increase the stress and pain in your abdomen and can delay recovery. Use a pillow to gently apply pressure against the abdominal wall to support the muscles and reduce the pain.
- Brace yourself before any movement involving the abdomen. Move slowly and rest when needed.
- Ask for pain medications when needed. A little pain after surgery is normal, but if the pain is severe, you may need evaluation and additional pain medications to hasten your appendectomy recovery.
- Slowly increase your activities. Start with short walks one week after laparoscopic appendectomy. Mild exercises may be done 3 weeks after open surgery.
- Get proper nutrition. This is an important factor in recovery to help regenerate cells and rebuild tissues. You may also take dietary supplements like vitamin C and beta-carotene to hasten healing and reduce scar formation.
- Pay attention to your diet. Normal diet is okay; but it is better to go for bland and low fat foods such as yogurt, broiled chicken, broiled chicken and toast if your stomach feels weird.
- Avoid straining when you poop. It is normal to have irregular bowel movements after the procedure. Eat fiber rich foods and drink more fluids, unless your doctor told you otherwise, to avoid constipation. It constipation persists, ask your doctor for mild laxative.
- Ask the doctor about resuming work or returning to school. Kids can usually go back to their classes within a week but they must refrain from participating in strenuous activities like gym class or sports for up to 4 weeks.
- Return to your doctor for follow-up. This is an important step in order to get complete evaluation of your healing process and a helpful way to address your concerns if there are any.
- Watch out for signs of infections such as swelling and redness around the wound, fever higher than 101F, appetite loss, vomiting, chills, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Whenever you're concerned, don't hesitate to call your doctor.