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An appendectomy in progress
An appendectomy in progress
An appendectomy (sometimes called appendisectomy or appendicectomy) (British English) is the surgical removal of the vermiform appendix. This procedure is normally performed as an emergency procedure, when the patient is suffering from acute appendicitis. In the absence of surgical facilities, intravenous antibiotics are used to delay or prevent the onset of sepsis; it is now recognized that many cases will resolve when treated perioperatively. In some cases the appendicitis resolves completely; more often, an inflammatory mass forms around the appendix, causing transruptural flotation. This is a relative contraindication to surgery.
Appendectomy may be performed laparoscopically (this is called minimally invasive surgery) or as an open operation. Laparoscopy is often used if the diagnosis is in doubt, or if it is desirable to hide the scars in the umbilicus or in the pubic hair line. Recovery may be a little quicker with laparoscopic surgery; the procedure is more expensive and resource-intensive than open surgery and generally takes a little longer, with the (low in most patients) additional risks associated with pneumoperitoneum (inflating the abdomen with gas). Advanced pelvic sepsis occasionally requires a lower midline laparotomy.
The first recorded successful appendectomy was in 1735 when French surgeon Claudius Amyand described the presence of a perforated appendix within the hernial sac of an 11-year-old boy who had undergone successful herniotomy. The operation was performed on December 6, 1735, at St. George’s Hospital in London. The organ had apparently been perforated by a pin that the boy had swallowed. The patient, Hanvil Andersen, made a spectacular recovery and was discharged a month later.
There have been some cases of auto-appendectomies. One was attempted by Evan O'Neill Kane in 1921, but the operation was completed by his assistants. Another was Leonid Rogozov, who had to perform the operation on himself as he was the only doctor on a remote Antarctic base.
In general terms, the procedure for an open appendectomy is as follows.
Over the past decade, the outcomes of laparoscopic appendectomies have compared favorably to those for open appendectomies because of decreased pain, fewer postoperative complications, shorter hospitalization, earlier mobilization, earlier return to work, and better cosmesis. However, despite these advantages, efforts are still being made to decrease abdominal incision and visible scars after laparoscopy. Recent research has led to the development of natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES). However, there are numerous difficulties that need to be overcome before a wider clinical application of NOTES is adopted, including complications such as the opening of hollow viscera, failed sutures, a lack of fully developed instrumentation; and the necessity of reliable cost-benefit analyses.
Many surgeons have attempted to reduce incisional morbidity and improve cosmetic outcomes in laparoscopic appendicectomy by using fewer and smaller ports. Kollmar et al. described moving laparoscopic incisions to hide them in the natural camouflages like the suprapubic hairline in order to improve cosmesis. Additionally, reports in the literature indicate that mini-laparoscopic appendectomy using 2–3 mm or even smaller instruments along with one 12-mm port minimizes pain and improves cosmesis. More recently, studies by Ates et al. and Roberts et al. have described variants of an intracorporeal sling based single-port laparoscopic appendectomy with good clinical results.
There is also an increasing trend towards single incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS), using a special multiport umbilical trocar. With SILS, there is a more conventional view of the field of surgery compared to NOTES. The equipment used for SILS is familiar to surgeons already doing laparoscopic surgery. Most importantly, it is easy to convert SILS to conventional laparoscopy by adding a few trocars, this conversion to conventional laparoscopy being called 'port rescue'. SILS has been shown to be feasible, reasonably safe and cosmetically advantageous, compared to standard laparoscopy. However, this newer technique involves specialized instruments and is more difficult to learn because of a loss of triangulation, clashing of instruments, crossing of instruments (cross triangulation), and a lack of maneuverability. There is also the additional problem of decreased exposure and the added financial burden of procuring special articulating or curved coaxial instruments. SILS is still evolving, being used successfully in many centres, but with some way to go before it becomes mainstream. This limits its widespread use, especially in rural or peripheral centres with limited resources.
If appendicitis develops in a pregnant woman, an appendectomy is usually performed and should not harm the fetus. The risk of fetal death in the perioperative period after an appendectomy for early acute appendicitis is 3% to 5%. The risk of fetal death is 20% in perforated appendicitis.
A study from 2010 found that the average hospital stay for patients with appendicitis in the United States was 1.8 days. For patients with a perforated (ruptured) appendix, the average length of stay was 5.2 days.
Recovery time from the operation varies from person to person. Some will take up to three weeks before being completely active; for others it can be a matter of days. In the case of a laparoscopic operation, the patient will have three stapled scars of about an inch in length, between the navel and pubic hair line. When a laparotomy has been performed the patient will have a 2–3 inch scar, which will initially be heavily bruised.
While appendectomy is a standard surgical procedure, its cost has been found to vary considerably in the United States. A 2012 study from the University of California, San Francisco published in the Archives of Internal Medicine analyzed 2009 data from nearly 20,000 adult patients treated for appendicitis in California hospitals. Researchers examined “only uncomplicated episodes of acute appendicitis” that involved “visits for patients 18 to 59 years old with hospitalization that lasted fewer than four days with routine discharges to home.” The lowest charge for removal of an appendix was $1,529 and the highest $182,955, more than 120 times greater. The median charge was $33,611. While the study was limited to California, the researchers indicated that the results were applicable anywhere in the United States. Many, but not all, patients, are covered by some sort of medical insurance.
A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that in 2010, the average cost for a stay in the United States involving appendicitis was $7,800. For stays where the appendix had ruptured, the average cost was $12,800. The majority of patients seen in the hospital were covered by private insurance.
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