An appendectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the appendix.  The appendix is a small, finger-shaped organ attached to the large intestine.  Its primary purpose is to produce a protein known as immunoglobulin that destroys bacteria to help the body fight infection.  However, the appendix is not an essential organ for this function and if it must be removed, other parts of the body take over the immunoglobulin production.  The appendix may be removed if it becomes inflamed and infected, to prevent rupture and spread of the infection.

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a condition where the appendix becomes inflamed, causing pain on the right side of the abdomen that can become severe.  As the organ swells, bacteria multiplies inside.  If the appendix ruptures, this bacteria can spread throughout the abdominal cavity.  This is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical treatment.  An appendectomy is generally performed once appendicitis is suspected, to prevent this condition from occurring.  Symptoms of appendicitis might include:

  • Pain in the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Pain that worsens with coughing or sudden movement
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite

Benefits of an Appendectomy

Appendectomies are the most common type of emergency surgery performed in the U.S. today.  It is generally recommended to patients that are showing signs of appendicitis, even if the condition cannot be definitively diagnosed.  People can live long, healthy lives without their appendix, so the risks of a ruptured appendix usually far outweigh the risks of removing the organ through surgery.  Benefits of an appendectomy include:

  • Relief from painful symptoms
  • Removal of bacteria from abdomen
  • Prevention of further complications from a burst appendix
  • Different options available to tailor the procedure to the patient
  • Some patients experience a quicker, more comfortable recovery period than they expect

Options in Appendectomies

The surgeons at Missoula Surgical Associates offer two different options in appendectomies:


Laparoscopic Appendectomy– This procedure uses a special instrument known as a laparoscope and other special tools to remove the appendix through much smaller incisions.  The laparoscope is used to locate the appendix so that it can be tied off and removed through one of the small incisions.  The benefits to laparoscopic appendectomy include less discomfort after surgery and a faster recovery period.  Our surgeons will determine if laparoscopic surgery is the right choice for you based on your specific condition and any previous abdominal surgeries you might have had.

Open Appendectomy – An open appendectomy involves a slightly larger incision in the abdomen through which the surgeon can locate and remove the appendix.  Open appendectomies tend to require a longer recovery period, but may be necessary in cases where the patient is in the final weeks of pregnancy or has significant scarring from a previous surgery.  In addition, an open appendectomy is usually recommended for severe inflammation or in cases where the appendix has ruptured.  Although an appendectomy is one of the most common type of surgery performed today, it is still essential to have an experienced surgeon perform your procedure to ensure the best outcome.  The surgeons at Missoula Surgical Associates perform appendectomies regularly and will be able to determine the best procedure for your specific needs.  To learn more, contact Missoula Surgical Associates at 406.542.7525.