Laparoscopic Appendectomy: What to Expect From a Patient's Perspective
My Personal Appendicitis Journey
I want to give you a bit of background on me so you know who is writing this information. Maybe you can relate to me and my story. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to talk to an adult who had gone through this procedure to help me deal with the process.
I had been having very bad stomach pains periodically on my lower right side for as long as ten years. It would come hard and painful, and after a few days, it would dissipate. Sometimes, there was a lingering pain but not nearly as excruciating as the first couple of days when it first occurred. I did visit my local hospital emergency room about eight or nine years ago. I sat in the emergency waiting room for at least three hours—just waiting to be seen by a doctor. The pain was so bad that I had to lean over to try to get through it. After waiting for almost four hours, and the pain lightening up a bit, I decided to leave. I couldn’t wait anymore—it was ridiculous.
I used to chalk the pain up to bad gas and bad food choices—and maybe the alcohol wasn’t helping either.
In September of 2017, I had my last bout of excruciating stomach pain. I rode it out as usual, and after two weeks, with some pain still lingering, I went in to see my family doctor. After explaining to the doctor what symptoms I had, including a fever as well as the lingering pain, she decided to send me for a blood test and an ultrasound at the hospital. When I went for the ultrasound, they couldn’t clearly identify my appendix so sent me off for a CT scan. A CT scan gives images of everything in 3D for the doctors to assess your innards. It was then identified that my appendix had ruptured and had quite a bit of scar tissue built up.
So my appendix was ruptured all these years and then half-ass healed itself. I went through these pains a few times in a year. Honestly, I am very lucky I didn’t suck up the pain one too many times and have my appendix burst enough that I would get peritonitis and died.
My family doctor got me an appointment with a surgeon, and my surgery was scheduled. Here’s how the process went.
A week before the surgery date, I was contacted by the hospital to go through some pre-op questions to better help them and me with the operation.
They asked quite a few questions about my health history, any medications I was on etc.
I was told that when having laparoscopic surgery, my stomach would be filled with a gas that inflates the area so that the stomach wall pulls away from the organs of the body. This gives the surgeon the room he/she needs to operate and so that the camera can get a visual on what is going on.
They let me know of a few things that I wasn’t supposed to be taking for a week before surgery. These included ibuprofen and vitamins. The nurse that calls will let you know what to stop taking a week before surgery based on what information you provide.
They let me know when to stop eating before the surgery, which surprised me. I was informed not to have anything to eat or drink beginning the midnight before the surgery. I thought, for sure, it would have been at least 24 hrs before surgery, but no, it was less than 12 hours. I was able to have a cup of water between midnight and surgery.
Twenty-four hours before the scheduled surgery I was called by the hospital to be reminded of the surgery time and to remind me that I wasn’t supposed to eat or drink after midnight. They also wanted to make sure I had someone to pick me up from the hospital and take me home after surgery. The hospital also wanted to know that someone would be with me for at least the first twenty-four hours after being released.
So now, it is time for me to head off to the hospital.
Day Surgery Experience—What to Expect
I was told not to bring any valuables to the hospital—no cell phone, no wedding ring, no wallet, no money—nothing except for my health card. I did bring a list with a few contacts and phone numbers so that the nurse would know who to phone to pick me up later that day.
So the first thing I had to do when I arrived at the hospital was register at the hospital admittance area. Once registered, I was told to head up to the Day Surgery Unit. The admittance personnel attached a wristband on my wrist identifying who I was.
When I got to the Day Surgery Unit, I was brought to an area with lockers and a changing room. I was given the usual hospital clothing and told to get changed and put all of my items in a provided bag, which I locked in one of the lockers, taking the key and pinning it to my housecoat.
I was then led to the day surgery area where all of the day’s patients are prepped for their procedures. I was given a bed to lay in. A nurse was assigned to my bed. She (Juanita) went through some questions similar to what was asked in the pre-op phone calls.
About an hour before my operation, I had an IV stuck in my hand. If you are fortunate enough to not know what this is, it is a needle in the back of your hand attached to a tube which runs from a drip bag hanging on a metal stand that can roll around with you if you decide to get up. This is where different medications can be administered from.
The anesthesiologist visited me with more questions. I was informed that I would need a tube stuck down my windpipe for oxygen. They worry about sleep apnea and do not want you to stop breathing during surgery.
My surgery ended up being about an hour late, which probably isn’t that bad. Once it was my turn, my bed and operating room were announced on a loudspeaker so the assigned nurse and porter new where to roll me.
Once I arrived at the operating room, I was asked to jump on the operating table. I was then given the anesthetic and ZZZZZ—I was out.
Next thing I knew, I woke up in the post-op room. I had three incisions—one for the camera and two for the surgeon's instruments. Feeling quite groggy, I was greeted by my post-op nurse and asked how I was feeling. I had to stay in the post-op room for about an hour before I was brought back to the day surgery room. The post-op nurse wanted me to sleep a bit to help the anesthetic wear off, but I am not much of a napper, and once I was awake, I wasn't going to nod off again while there.
After an hour was up, I was rolled to the day surgery room.
The nurses in the day surgery room were very attentive making sure I was comfortable getting me some water with ice chips in it. I was then told I would have to stay at least another hour. A nurse called my wife to let her know when I would be discharged so she could be there to pick me up. In the meantime, I was under the watchful eye of my nurse ensuring I was feeling okay. Eventually, I was given the green light to get up and walk around. I still had my IV stuck in the back of my hand so I had to walk around with my IV pole.
Note: I was informed not to lift anything weighing more than 10 lbs for at least two weeks.
After an hour of being back in the day surgery room, I was given my own clothes, which if you remember, were being held in a locker while I went through my procedure. A porter pushed me out of the hospital in a wheelchair to my awaiting ride.
Going Home and the First Few Days
The first stop on the way home was the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions of painkillers, anti-inflammatory, and stool softener. After the prescriptions were picked up, it was time to go home to get comfortable. Luckily my innards were still frozen, or my system still had lots of leftover painkiller, because the bumps in the road didn’t seem to affect me too much. Getting in and out of my truck did cause some pain and discomfort. The incisions were very fresh.
Ah, it’s so good to be home.
In just over seven hours, I was back on my couch.
I noticed not long after getting home that I had a bloody gauze and bandaid. I kept a close eye on it to make sure it didn’t keep bleeding. The laparoscopic appendectomy documentation you take home explains what to watch out for and what you shouldn't be doing. The next day, I changed the bloody dressing, and it appeared that the bleeding had stopped.
The pain increased the next day around the three incisions and the area where my appendix used to be. It is interesting that the incisions on my abdomen are on the left side of my body because, as you know, the appendix is on the right. This must give the surgeon more room to work with the laparoscopic tools.
My Overall Assessment of Having a Laparoscopic Appendectomy
Let me tell you—I wasn’t keen on having surgery right from the get-go. When I was in the hospital, waiting for my turn in the operating room, I was very anxious and was having negative thoughts about how this surgery could turn out. I guess this can be expected, considering I have no previous experience with surgeries. This was the first time, as an adult, that I had surgery performed on me.
Once it was over, though, I was quite relieved, and aside from the pain, I was doing great.
If you have to have surgery, a laparoscopic surgery is the way to go, if it is an option. A few incisions are much better than one long one—in my mind, anyway.
I am only on day two right now and have some pain in my abdomen, but I do have painkillers for this reason. I was prescribed hydromorphone and an anti-inflammatory. I am also taking Tylenol for the pain. After a week or so, I will come back and update on how my recovery has gone.
As I mentioned before, I was told not to lift anything over 10 pounds for up to two weeks. I was also given a doctor's note explaining that I would need to be off work for two weeks to recover from my surgery.
I hope that sharing my story on having my appendix removed has helped you in preparing for this very easy procedure.