Appendectomy: A Minimally Invasive Procedure for a Minimally Useful Part

It can start as some vague pain in the upper part of your abdomen. But during a few hours, it can quickly become strong, persistent pain, and you’ll need to seek medical help.

Appendicitis is the inflammation or infection of your appendix, a tube-like organ that’s attached to the first portion of your large intestine.

In addition to the quickly escalating, strong abdominal pain, appendicitis can cause nausea and vomiting.

The strange thing about your appendix is that it has no definite known function.

“There’s a suggestion that the appendix may help repopulate the colon with normal bacteria after a severe infection, like cholera or typhus,” says Scott Wilcher, MD, of North Dayton Surgeons, part of Premier Physician Network. “But otherwise, we’ve not really found a good reason for an appendix.”

Treating Appendicitis

In the U.S., appendicitis in almost always treated with a laparoscopic appendectomy to remove your appendix.

“We go in through two or three little incisions and remove the appendix off the colon,” Dr. Wilcher says. “Most of the time this could be done as an outpatient procedure, so you can go home soon after the surgery. A lot of times, people will stay overnight and go home the following day. It just depends on the patient.”

A laparoscopic appendectomy is a minimally invasive surgery. It has been the well-established standard in appendicitis treatment for decades, he says.

Most appendicitis patients make good candidates for this procedure.

In cases where your appendix is perforated with an abscess, your health care provider might do CT scan-guided drainage of the abscess, followed by antibiotic treatment. In this situation, you might still need your appendix removed a few months later.

Though there has been some recent news about non-invasive antibiotic treatment for appendicitis, Dr. Wilcher says this option excludes most patients. Even after patients try the antibiotic route, many still end up having surgery to remove their appendix within a year.

“Really, the failure rate (for antibiotic treatment for appendicitis) is much higher than a laparoscopic appendectomy, and the complication rates are much higher,” he says. “I would say most surgeons in the United States would do a laparoscopic appendectomy.”

To learn more about treating appendicitis, talk to your doctor or health care provider or search for a provider.