Appendectomy: What to Expect at Home

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Inflamed appendix

Your Recovery

Your doctor removed your appendix either by making many small cuts, called incisions, in your belly (laparoscopic surgery) or through open surgery. In open surgery, the doctor makes one large incision. The incisions leave scars that usually fade over time.

After your surgery, it is normal to feel weak and tired for several days after you return home. Your belly may be swollen and may be painful. If you had laparoscopic surgery, you may have shoulder pain. This is caused by the air the doctor put in your belly to help see the organs better. The pain may last for a day or two.

You may also have nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas, or a headache. These problems usually go away in a few days.

Your recovery time depends on the type of surgery you had. If you had laparoscopic surgery, you will probably be able to return to work or a normal routine in a couple of weeks after surgery. If you had an open surgery, it may take longer. If your appendix ruptured, you may have a drain in your incision.

Your body will work fine without an appendix. You won't have to make any changes in your diet or lifestyle.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • For about 2 weeks, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise. Do this for about 2 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • You may be able to take showers (unless you have a drain near your incision) 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay. If you have a drain near your incision, follow your doctor's instructions.
  • You may drive when you are no longer taking pain medicine and can quickly move your foot from the gas pedal to the brake. You must also be able to sit comfortably for a long period of time, even if you do not plan on going far. You might get caught in traffic.
  • You will probably be able to go back to work in 1 to 2 weeks. If you had an open surgery, it may take longer.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.


  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, start with small amounts of food.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You also will be given instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • If your appendix ruptured, you will need to take antibiotics. Take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much Tylenol can be harmful.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.

Incision care

  • If you had an open surgery, you may have staples in your incision. The doctor will take these out in 7 to 10 days.
  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on until it falls off.
  • Gently wash the area with warm, soapy water 24 to 48 hours after your surgery, unless your doctor tells you not to. Pat the area dry.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. You may cover it with a gauze bandage if it oozes or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day or more often if needed.
  • If your appendix ruptured, you may have an incision with packing in it. Change the packing as often as your doctor tells you to.
    • Packing changes may hurt at first. Taking pain medicine about half an hour before you change the packing can help.
    • If your dressing sticks to your wound, try soaking it with warm water for about 10 minutes before you remove it. You can do this in the shower or by placing a wet washcloth over the dressing.
    • Remove the old packing and rinse the incision with water. Gently pat the top area dry.
    • The size of the incision determines how much gauze you need to put inside. Fold the gauze over once, but do not wad it up so that it hurts. Put it in the wound carefully. You want to keep the sides of the wound from touching. A cotton swab may help you push the gauze in as needed.
    • Put a gauze pad over the wound, and tape it down.
    • You may notice yellow or grayish fluid oozing from your wound as you start to heal. This is normal. It is a sign that your wound is healing.

Other instructions

  • If your appendix ruptured, you may have a tube that drains fluid from the incision. The doctor will tell you how to take care of it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have nausea or vomiting and cannot drink fluids.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.
  • You have pain that does not get better when you take your pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.