Seeing your child in pain is one of the worst things a parent can go through. If your child needs an appendectomy, it can be scary. But learning as much as you about the procedure can eliminate the amount of stress you feel throughout the experience.

What is an Appendectomy?
An appendectomy is a procedure where a surgeon removes a person’s appendix. The appendix is a small organ that is a narrow, blind ending pouch connected to the end of the large intestine. There are two types of appendectomy: open and laparoscopic. In an open appendectomy, the surgeon makes a small incision in the right lower quadrant of the patient’s abdomen. In a laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon puts a telescope through the belly button and can either do the surgery with just that small incision or with a couple additional small incisions.

Signs of a Problem
The classic presentation of appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix) is diffuse abdominal pain that localizes to the right lower quadrant. It may be associated with nausea and vomiting. Appendicitis, if left untreated, will progress to rupture (bursting) and, eventually, death.

What to Expect
The operation should take less than an hour. My fastest appendectomy was less than five minutes, but twenty minutes would be typical. Some difficult cases have taken me over an hour. Your child will be under general anesthesia, so they will be “asleep” throughout the procedure. There will be a small amount of recovery time. For an uncomplicated appendectomy, your child could go home as soon as a few hours after surgery. If the surgeon finds that the appendix is ruptured, your child would need to stay in the hospital to get antibiotics.

Any time that a child has surgery, there are risks involved. With any operation, there is a risk of bleeding and infection. The chance of serious bleeding from an appendectomy is low. The risk or a wound infection or an intra-abdominal abscess is relatively high with this operation because it is a “contaminated” case/

If your child needs an appendectomy, it’s extremely important to stay calm around them so that they don’t get nervous themselves. If they are nervous already, do your best to assure them that it’s a standard procedure. Also, check out my blog post about Surviving Your Child’s Hospital Stay.