What is a Laparoscopic Appendectomy?

Appendicitis is one of the most common surgical problems. One out of every 2,000 people has an appendectomy sometime during their lifetime. Treatment requires an operation to remove the infected appendix. Traditionally, the appendix is removed through an incision in the right lower abdominal wall.

In most laparoscopic appendectomies, surgeons operate through 3 small incisions (each ¼ to ½ inch) while watching an enlarged image of the patient’s internal organs on a television monitor. In some cases, one of the small openings may be lengthened to complete the procedure.

Advantages of Laparoscopic Appendectomy

Results may vary depending upon the type of procedure and patient’s overall condition. Common advantages are:

  • Less postoperative pain
  • May shorten hospital stay
  • May result in a quicker return to bowel function
  • Quicker return to normal activity
  • Better cosmetic results

Are You a Candidate for Laparoscopic Appendectomy?

Although laparoscopic appendectomy has many benefits, it may not be appropriate for some patients. Early, non-ruptured appendicitis usually can be removed laparoscopically. Laparoscopic appendectomy is more difficult to perform if there is advanced infection or the appendix has ruptured. A traditional, open procedure using a larger incision may be required to safely remove the infected appendix in these patients.

 

How is a Laparoscopic Appendectomy Performed?

The words “laparoscopic” and “open” appendectomy describes the techniques a surgeon uses to gain access to the internal surgery site. Most laparoscopic appendectomies start the same way. Using a cannula (a narrow tube-like instrument), the surgeon enters the abdomen. A laparoscope (a tiny telescope connected to a video camera) is inserted through a cannula, giving the surgeon a magnified view of the patient’s internal organs on a television monitor. Several other cannulas are inserted to allow the surgeon to work inside and remove the appendix. The entire procedure may be completed through the cannulas or by lengthening one of the small cannula incisions. A drain may be placed during the procedure. This will be removed later by your surgeon.

What Happens if the Operation Cannot Be Performed or Completed by the Laparoscopic Method?

In a small number of patients the laparoscopic method is not feasible because of the inability to visualize or handle the organs effectively. If your surgeon feels that it is safest to convert the laparoscopic procedure to an open one, this is not a complication, but rather sound surgical judgment. Factors that may increase the possibility of converting to the “open” procedure may include:

  • Extensive infection and/or abscess
  • A perforated appendix
  • Obesity
  • A history of prior abdominal surgery causing dense scar tissue
  • Inability to visualize organs
  • Bleeding problems during the operation