Children's Hospital Colorado

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What is an appendectomy?

An appendectomy is surgery to remove the appendix. The appendix is a small, narrow pouch that extends from the first part of the large bowel, which is located in the lower, right side of the abdomen. The appendix is thought to serve as a reservoir for healthy gut bacteria. It can be removed without causing health concerns.


Who needs an appendectomy?

The appendix stores bacteria and can sometimes get infected. When the appendix gets infected, it is called appendicitis. The infection can cause the appendix to swell and eventually rupture if not treated, so it is important to know if your child has appendicitis. Appendicitis is very common, affecting about one in every 20 people. The first sign is usually stomach pain that starts around the belly button and spreads toward the lower, right part of the abdomen. Unlike a stomach bug, where the stomach pain can come and go, appendicitis usually causes pain that is continuous and steadily gets worse.

What to expect during an appendectomy

There are two main types of appendicitis and the complexity of the surgery varies, depending on the type being treated.

Appendectomy for acute appendicitis

At Children's Hospital Colorado, pediatric surgeons perform an appendectomy using minimally invasive surgical techniques. That means the surgeons create three small incisions to look inside the body with a camera and perform the surgery. This is called the laparoscopic method. Sometimes, surgeons cannot perform the surgery this way and instead need to make a larger incision between 2 to 4 inches, which allows them to see inside your child's body without using a camera.

To close the incisions, surgeons place stitches under the skin, which eventually dissolve over the course of a few months. They will also place small dressing tapes called Steri-Strips over the incision.

Appendectomy for perforated appendicitis

The treatment method for perforated appendicitis depends on the patient's clinical symptoms, physical exam and diagnostic studies such as imaging tests. If the appendix is perforated, an abscess (small pocket of infection) may develop, requiring your child’s doctor to perform a procedure to drain the abscess. In some cases, the doctor will decide to then remove the appendix as described above.

In other cases of perforated appendicitis, the infection can spread past the appendix and form an abscess. If this happens, the surgeon may decide that it is best to treat the patient with IV antibiotics and drain the infectious fluid or abscess. After the infection clears and the inflammation has improved, which takes about 6 to 8 weeks, the surgeon will perform an appendectomy as described above.

What to expect after an appendectomy

After the operation, your child will be admitted to the hospital surgical unit to monitor their recovery. If only acute appendicitis is found, your child will most likely be able to go home the same day. In the case of perforated appendicitis, we will monitor your child until the infection completely clears.

If you have any questions or concerns upon returning home from the surgery, call the ParentSmart Healthline at 1-855-543-4636 (KID-INFO). Pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your questions.

Why choose us for an appendectomy?

Expert surgeons for all procedures

Our surgeons are trained to perform some of the most complicated pediatric surgeries. As a parent, you want the best when it comes to surgery and your child, even if an appendectomy is considered a common procedure.

Minimally invasive techniques

Our pediatric surgeons perform the latest minimally invasive surgeries, including laparoscopy. This approach shortens healing time and lessens the pain and discomfort of surgery for children.

Trained to treat children

Our dedicated team of pediatric surgeons and anesthesiologists only serve children and have extra years of training to do so. We also have a child life team that uses many different techniques to put kids at ease before surgery.

Contact us

Call the Department of Pediatric Surgery for more information about a condition or to schedule an appointment.

Children’s Hospital Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora: 720-777-6571
Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs: Phone: 719-305-9035