An appendectomy, also known as an appendicectomy, refers to the surgical removal of the appendix. An appendectomy is often performed for patients with appendicitis, which usually runs a rapid course and commonly presents with abdominal pain near the navel or the upper abdomen. Appendicitis is an emergency condition that requires timely treatment, as when left untreated the appendix will burst or perforate and spill infectious materials into the abdominal cavity (which can be fatal).

Appendectomy may also be required for conditions such as appendiceal tumours and mucocele of the appendix, or the appendix may be removed incidentally during other surgical procedures.

The two approaches for an appendectomy, performed under general anaesthesia, include:

  • Open appendectomy – where an incision is made over the lower right section of the abdomen to remove the appendix. An open appendectomy is often undertaken for patients with multiple previous operations, or as a conversion from laparoscopic surgery.
  • Laparoscopic appendectomy – a less invasive procedure that uses three to four small incisions on the abdomen to access the appendix. The abdominal cavity is inflated with carbon dioxide gas, which allows the surgeon to better access the appendix.

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