Postoperative Care after Appendectomy

Following surgery, the patient is taken to the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) until the anesthesia wears off. During this time, the nursing staff checks temperature, heart rate, and breathing at frequent intervals. When the anesthesia wears off and vital signs stabilize, the patient is transferred to their hospital room.

Unruptured Appendix

With an unruptured appendix, the patient's recovery time is relatively quick. The morning after surgery, clear liquids are offered. Once those are tolerated, the diet progresses to solid food. Once the patient is eating and drinking, the intravenous is removed. Physical activity, such as getting out of bed, begins on the same day as surgery or the next morning. Most patients need medication to relieve the pain in and around the incision. The smaller incisions of a laparscopic procedure often cause less pain than the large incision made in open appendectomy.

The nursing staff continues to monitor the patient for signs of infection and checks that the incision is healing. Patients with uncomplicated surgeries usually leave the hospital 1 or 2 days following surgery.

Boy in Hospital - Masterfile Image

Once at home, the patient must check the incision site. It should be dry and the wound should be completely closed. If the incision drains blood or pus, or if the edges are pulling apart, the physician should be notified immediately. Fever and increasing pain at the incision site also should be reported to the physician.

Normal activities can be resumed within a few days, but it takes 4 to 6 weeks for full recovery. Heavy lifting and strenuous activity should be avoided during recovery. If antibiotics and/or pain medication are prescribed, they should be taken as directed.

The open procedure leaves a scar on the lower right side of the abdomen that is a few inches long and fades over time. Scarring from laparoscopic appendectomy is minimal.

Ruptured Appendix

Recovery from surgery for a perforated appendix is longer, primarily because the infection must be treated. The hospital stay is at least 4 days and can be longer, if complications develop. The drain remains in place until the pus stops draining, and the nursing staff changes the gauze packing as needed. Intravenous antibiotics continue throughout the hospitalization.

When discharged, oral antibiotics are prescribed and should be taken as directed. The drain and gauze pack remain in place, and instructions are given on proper care of the area. It is important to inform the physician if the amount of drainage suddenly increases, or if the color and consistency changes. The drain is removed on an outpatient basis after the infection has resolved.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Nov 2001

Last Modified: 24 Jan 2012