6 Tips for Recovering From an Appendectomy

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Darcy Lewis on December 27, 2020
  • Woman holding lower abdomen
    First, Emergency Surgery. But Then What?
    Appendectomy is one of the top reasons for emergency general surgery in the United States. An emergency appendectomy is the standard treatment for appendicitis—inflammation of the appendix, a small pouch that extends from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen. Removing the appendix is the only way to protect you from the dangerous infection that could develop if your appendix bursts. Whether your appendectomy surgery is open (with a large incision through the abdomen) or laparoscopic (with 1 to 3 small incisions), it’s important to take these six steps for a smooth and complete recovery.
  • You've got another few minutes - Sleeping Woman
    1. Allow yourself to rest.
    When a person has surgery, the body’s natural response is to throw the brakes on regular activity so it can focus on uninterrupted healing. That means you can expect to sleep much more than usual for at least the first week or so following surgery. This period of decreased physical activity is important, especially with abdominal surgery (either open or laparoscopic). That’s because your surgeon had to cut through the external muscles you can see as well as the innermost layer of the abdominal wall that keeps your internal organs in place. If you resume activities before the inner layer heals, a hernia may develop, in which part of your intestine squeezes out of the abdominal cavity. This may lead to the need for more abdominal surgery to repair the hernia.
  • Female Doctor with Female Patient
    2. Follow your doctor’s instructions.
    Your doctor will give you specific homecare instructions when you leave the hospital. These instructions will most likely cover wound care, any dietary restrictions, and signs of possible complications specifically related to your surgery. The instructions should also spell out any limits your doctor is placing on your activities while you heal. Expect limits to be placed on how much weight you can lift and for how long. Each surgeon’s preferences vary but, in general, the more closely you follow the homecare instructions, the smoother your recovery will be.
  • Medicines in hand
    3. Manage your pain.
    Being in pain puts extra stress on your body and can slow the healing process. Your doctor’s homecare instructions will likely include suggestions about how to manage surgical pain. Follow the instructions about pain medications exactly. In general, you want to take the smallest possible dose for the shortest possible time while still getting relief. Call your doctor if your pain medications aren't helping. Tip: You can help reduce pain by placing a pillow over your abdomen and applying gentle pressure before you cough, laugh or move.
  • man-walking-on-treadmill
    4. Increase your activities gradually.
    Rest is important, but so is gentle activity. When you're ready, start slowly and increase your activity as you feel up to it. Short walks, even just around the house, are a great way to start and help protect you from developing pneumonia or blood clots. An added bonus: Being up and about will encourage your digestive system to return to normal sooner. Constipation can be very uncomfortable, so walk when you can, get plenty to drink, and take stool softeners if your doctor recommends them.
  • Man with Cold/Flu Series
    5. Know the signs of infection.
    Infection is the biggest risk following appendectomy. You can minimize this risk by following your doctor’s wound care instructions carefully. You should also watch for signs of infection, which include redness and swelling around the incision, fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Call your doctor if you are concerned about any symptoms you experience.
  • young woman smiling at desk
    6. Ease back into regular life.
    Your surgeon will typically want to check your progress at a follow-up visit about 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. You may be tempted to skip the visit if you’re feeling better, but don’t. You want to make sure everything is healing well, and discuss how long any activity restrictions must remain in place. Adults may have returned to work by the time of the follow-up visit, but children may need a doctor’s clearance to return to school or physical activities. Appendectomy is considered emergency surgery, but it’s also one of the most common abdominal surgeries performed in the United States, so by the time you’re a few weeks out of surgery, life should be back to normal—minus one appendix, that is.
6 Tips for Recovering From an Appendectomy | Recovery Time
  1. Activity After Open or Laparoscopic Abdominal Surgery. Swedish Hospital. http://www.swedish.org/blog/2013/02/activity-after-open-or-laparoscopic-abdominal-surgery
  2. Diseases and Conditions: Appendicitis. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/appendicitis/basics/definition/con-20023582
  3. Getting Life Back to Normal after Surgery. University of Utah Health Sciences. http://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_jcd5tg17
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Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 27
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.