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Acute Care Advisor 2018.1 © 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries

What is appendicitis?


Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small, finger shaped pouch where the large and small intestines join. In most cases, inflammation of the appendix is caused by a blockage of the opening of the appendix. Sometimes it is caused by infection in the digestive tract.


It is important to get treatment for appendicitis before the appendix ruptures. A rupture is a break or tear in the appendix. If an infected appendix breaks open, infection and bowel movement may spread inside the belly. This can cause a life-threatening infection called peritonitis. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is considered an emergency.


You can live a normal life without an appendix.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?


How long it takes to get better depends on how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. With prompt treatment, there are few complications of appendicitis. However, if you have an infection due to a ruptured appendix, it may take longer to get better.



  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.

    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.

    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.

    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.

    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.

  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:

    • Treat pain

    • Treat or prevent an infection

    • Treat or prevent side effects such as nausea or constipation

    • Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement

  • Your provider may recommend other types of therapy to help relieve pain, other symptoms, or side effects of treatment.

  • If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:

    • Keep your surgical wound clean.

    • If you are told to change the dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.

  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines or muscle relaxants.

  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.

  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Stay physically active as advised by your provider.



  • Follow your provider's instructions for follow-up appointments.

  • Keep appointments for any testing you may need.


Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.


Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in your legs or arms

  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:

    • The area around the wound is more red or painful

    • The wound area is very warm to touch

    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area

    • You have a fever higher than 101° F (38.3° C)

    • You have chills or muscle aches

  • Pain that is not well controlled with your medicine

  • Vomiting

  • Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems


US Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Appendicitis. Updated November 13, 2014. Accessed November 2016.
Goldman L and Schafer, A. 2012. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine (24th ed), 144, 921-928. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.
Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL. 2012. Sabiston textbook of surgery, 19th ed. Elsevier.


Developed by Change Healthcare.

Published by Change Healthcare.

Produced in Cork, Ireland.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.