Treatment for Appendicitis
In this section:
- How do doctors treat appendicitis?
- What if the surgeon finds a normal appendix?
- Can doctors treat appendicitis without surgery?
- How do doctors treat complications of a burst appendix?
- What complications may occur after an appendectomy?
- What should I expect after surgery to treat appendicitis?
How do doctors treat appendicitis?
Doctors typically treat appendicitis by removing the appendix. This surgery is called an appendectomy. Surgeons perform the operation with general anesthesia in a hospital. Your doctor will recommend surgery if you have ongoing or long-lasting abdominal pain and fever, or if you show signs of a burst appendix and infection. Prompt surgery decreases the chances that your appendix will burst and cause additional health complications.
A surgeon removes your appendix either by
- laparoscopic surgery, in which the surgeon makes a small incision, or cut, in the abdomen and inserts a laparoscope—a thin tube with a tiny video camera and light attached—to view the inside of your abdomen. Surgeons may make one or more additional small incisions and insert tools to remove or repair organs and tissues.
- open laparotomy, in which the surgeon uses a single, larger incision in the lower-right area of your abdomen.
Laparoscopic surgery is becoming increasingly common. It generally leads to fewer complications, such as hospital-related infections, and it has a shorter recovery time. After examining your condition and past medical history, your surgeon will recommend the best method for you.
What if the surgeon finds a normal appendix?
In some cases, a surgeon may find a normal appendix during surgery. If this happens, some surgeons usually remove the appendix so you don’t develop appendicitis in the future. Sometimes surgeons find a different problem, and they may correct it during surgery.
Can doctors treat appendicitis without surgery?
Anyone who might have appendicitis is treated with antibiotics before surgery. Some people may improve with the antibiotics and not need surgery.
Some mild cases of appendicitis may be treated with antibiotics alone. Researchers are studying who might safely avoid surgery based on their symptoms, test results, health, and age, but surgery remains the standard of care.
How do doctors treat complications of a burst appendix?
Treating the complications of a burst appendix will depend on which complication develops: peritonitis or an abscess.
If you don’t get treated quickly, peritonitis can threaten your life. In most cases, a surgeon will immediately perform a laparotomy: first, to clean the inside of your abdomen to prevent infection, and then to remove your appendix.
Doctors typically drain the pus from an abscess to allow it to heal.
What complications may occur after an appendectomy?
Surgery to remove your appendix is generally safe. However, complications are possible. Complications after laparoscopic surgery or open laparotomy may include
- infection of the surgical site
- an abscess that forms inside your abdomen
- a fistula, or abnormal passage, that forms between your intestine or stomach and your skin
- a small bowel obstruction
- ileus, a condition in which your bowel does not work correctly
- abdominal adhesions, or bands of scar-like tissue that form inside your abdomen
What should I expect after surgery to treat appendicitis?
After surgery, you will likely recover completely from appendicitis and won’t need to make changes to your diet, exercise, or lifestyle. Surgeons generally recommend you limit physical activity for the first 3 to 5 days after laparoscopic surgery and for the first 10 to 14 days after a laparotomy. Talk with your surgeon about your recovery plan.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.