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An appendectomy is a procedure involving the excision of the appendix in the event of its acute inflammation. It is common for surgeons to perform an incidental appendectomy together with other necessary procedures in the abdomen, in which case operation is prophylactic.

Nursing Diagnoses

Acute pain

May be related to 

  • Distension of intestinal tissues by inflammation
  • Presence of surgical incision

Possibly evidenced by 

  • Reports of pain
  • Facial grimacing, muscle guarding; distraction behaviors
  • Expressive behavior (restlessness, moaning, crying, vigilance, irritability, sighing)
  • Autonomic responses

Desired outcomes

  • Report pain is relieved/controlled
  • Appear relaxed, able to sleep/rest appropriately
  • Demonstrate  use of relaxation skills and diversional activities, as indicates, for individual situation

Nursing interventions 

Assess pain, noting location, characteristics, severity (0–10 scale). Investigate and report changes in pain as appropriate. Useful in monitoring effectiveness of medication, progression of healing. Changes in characteristics of pain may indicate developing abscess or peritonitis, requiring prompt medical evaluation and intervention.
Provide accurate, honest information to patient and SO.  Being informed about progress of situation provides emotional support, helping to decrease anxiety
Keep at rest in semi-Fowler’s position.  To lessen the pain. Gravity localizes inflammatory exudate into lower abdomen or pelvis, relieving abdominal tension, which is accentuated by supine position.
Encourage early ambulation.  Promotes normalization of organ function (stimulates peristalsis and passing of flatus, reducing abdominal discomfort).
Provide diversional activities. Refocuses attention, promotes relaxation, and may enhance coping abilities.
Keep NPO and maintain NG suction initially.  Decreases discomfort of early intestinal peristalsis, gastric irritation and vomiting.
Administer analgesics as indicated.  Relief of pain facilitates cooperation with other therapeutic interventions (ambulation, pulmonary toilet).
Place ice bag on abdomen periodically during initial 24–48 hr, as appropriate.  Soothes and relieves pain through desensitization of nerve endings. Note: Do not use heat, because it may cause tissue congestion.
Never apply heat to the right lower abdomen.  This may cause the appendix to rupture.
Watch closely for possible surgical complications.  Continuing pain and fever may signal an abscess.

Risk for fluid volume deficit 

Risk factors may include 

  • Preoperative vomiting, postoperative restrictions (e.g., NPO)
  • Hypermetabolic state (e.g., fever, healing process)
  • Inflammation of peritoneum with sequestration of fluid

Desired outcomes 

  • Hydration (NOC)
  • Maintain adequate fluid balance as evidenced by moist mucous membranes, good skin turgor, stable vital signs, and individually adequate urinary output.

Nursing interventions

Monitor BP and pulse.  Variations help identify fluctuating intravascular volumes.
Inspect mucous membranes; assess skin turgor and capillary refill.  Indicators of adequacy of peripheral circulation and cellular hydration.
Monitor I&O; note urine color and concentration, specific gravity.  Decreasing output of concentrated urine with increasing specific gravity suggests dehydration and need for increased fluids.
Auscultate and document bowel sounds. Note passing of flatus, bowel movement.  Indicators of return of peristalsis, readiness to begin oral intake. Note: This may not occur in the hospital if patient has had a laparoscopic procedure and been discharged in less than 24 hr.
Provide clear liquids in small amounts when oral intake is resumed, and progress diet as tolerated.  Reduces risk of gastric irritation and vomiting to minimize fluid loss.
Give frequent mouth care with special attention to protection of the lips.  Dehydration results in drying and painful cracking of the lips and mouth.
Maintain gastric and intestinal suction, as indicated.  An NG tube may be inserted preoperatively and maintained in immediate postoperative phase to decompress the bowel, promote intestinal rest, prevent vomiting.
Administer IV fluids and electrolytes.  The peritoneum reacts to irritation and infection by producing large amounts of intestinal fluid, possibly reducing the circulating blood volume, resulting in dehydration and relative electrolyte imbalances.
Never administer cathartics or enemas.  Cathartics and enemas may rupture the appendix.
Give the patient nothing by mouth, and administer analgesics judiciously.  This may mask symptoms.

Risk for infection

Risk factors may include

  • Inadequate primary defenses; perforation/rupture of the appendix; peritonitis; abscess formation
  • Invasive procedures, surgical incision

Desired outcomes

  • Achieve timely wound healing; free of signs of infection/inflammation, purulent drainage, erythema, and fever

Nursing priorities

  1. Prevent complications.
  2. Promote comfort.
  3. Provide information about surgical procedure/prognosis, treatment needs, and potential complications.

Discharge goals

  1. Complications prevented/minimized.
  2. Pain alleviated/controlled.
  3. Surgical procedure/prognosis, therapeutic regimen, and possible complications understood.
  4. Plan in place to meet needs after discharge.

Nursing interventions

Practice and instruct in good handwashing and aseptic wound care. Encourage and provide perineal care.  Reduces risk of spread of bacteria.
Inspect incision and dressings. Note characteristics of drainage from wound (if inserted), presence of erythema.  Provides for early detection of developing infectious process and monitors resolution of preexisting peritonitis.
Monitor vital signs. Note onset of fever, chills, diaphoresis, changes in mentation, reports of increasing abdominal pain.  Suggestive of presence of infection or developing sepsis, abscess, peritonitis.
Obtain drainage specimens if indicated.  Gram’s stain, culture, and sensitivity testing is useful in identifying causative organism and choice of therapy.
Administer antibiotics as appropriate.  Antibiotics given before appendectomy are primarily for prophylaxis of wound infection and are not continued postoperatively. Therapeutic antibiotics are administered if the appendix is ruptured or abscessed or peritonitis has developed.
Prepare and assist with incision and drainage (I&D) if indicated.  May be necessary to drain contents of localized abscess.
Watch closely for possible surgical complications.  Continuing pain and fever may signal an abscess.

Deficient knowledge

Maybe related to 

  • Lack of exposure/recall; information misinterpretation
  • Unfamiliarity with information resources

Possibly evidenced by 

  • Questions; request for information; verbalization of problem/concerns
  • Statement of misconception
  • Inaccurate follow-through of instruction
  • Development of preventable complications

Desired outcomes

  • Verbalize understanding of disease process and potential complications
  • Verbalize understanding of therapeutic needs
  • Participate in treatment regimen

Nursing interventions

Identify symptoms requiring medical evaluation (increasing pain; edema or erythema of wound; presence of drainage, fever).  Prompt intervention reduces risk of serious complications (delayed wound healing, peritonitis).
Review postoperative activity restrictions (heavy lifting, exercise, sex, sports, driving).  Provides information for patient to plan for return to usual routines without untoward incidents.
Encourage progressive activities as tolerated with periodic rest periods.  Prevents fatigue, promotes healing and feeling of well-being, and facilitates resumption of normal activities.
Recommend use of mild laxative or stool softeners as necessary and avoidance of enemas.  Assists with return to usual bowel function; prevents undue straining for defecation.
Discuss care of incision, including dressing changes, bathing restrictions, and return to physician for suture and staple removal.  Understanding promotes cooperation with therapeutic regimen, enhancing healing and recovery process.
Encourage the patient to cough, breathe deeply, and and turn frequently.  To prevent pulmonary complication.

Nursing Notes


Supine, with arms extended on armboards 

Incision site

McBurney (muscle splitting) incision


  • Laparotomy pack
  • Four folded towels

Instrumentation, supplies, equipment

  • Major Lap tray or minor tray
  • Internal stapling device
  • Basin set
  • Blades
  • Needle counter
  • Penrose drain
  • Culture tubes
  • Solutions
  • Sutures
  • Internal stapling instruments
  • Medication


  1. An incision is made in the right lower abdomen, either transversely oblique (McBurney) or vertically (for a primary appendectomy).
  2. The surgeon’s assistant retracts the wound edges with a Richardson or similar retractor.
  3. The appendix is identified and its vascular supply ligated.
  4. The surgeon grasps the appendix with a Babcock clamp, and delivers it into the wound site.
  5. The tip of the appendix may then be grasped with a Kelly clamp to hold it up, and a moist Lap sponge is placed around the base of the appendix (stump) to prevent contamination of bowel contents, in case any spill out occurs during the procedure.
  6. The surgeon isolates the appendix from its attachments to the bowel (mesoappendix) using Metzenbaum scissors.
  7. Taking small bits of tissue along the appendix, the mesoappendix is double-clamped, and ligated with free ties.
  8. The base of the appendix is grasped with a straight Kelly clamp, and the appendix is removed.
  9. The stump may be inverted into the cecum, using a purse-string suture on a fine needle, cauterize with chemicals, or simply left alone after ligation.
  10. Another technique is to de-vascularize the appendix and invert the entire appendix into the cecum.
  11. The appendix, knife, needle holder, and any clamps or scissors that have come in contact with the appendix are delivered in a basin in the circulating nurse.
  12. The wound is irrigated with warm saline, and is closed in layers, except when an abscess has occurred, as with acute appendicitis.
  13. A drain may be placed into the abscess cavity, exiting through the incision or a stab wound.
  14. An alternative technique may be used the internal stapling device, by placing the stapling instrument around the tissue at the appendiocecum junction.
  15. By using the technique, the possibility of contamination from spillage is greatly reduced.

Perioperative nursing consideration

  1. Instruments used for amputation of the appendix are to be isolated in a basin.
  2. If ruptured, the case must be considered contaminated, and the surgeon may elect to use antibiotic irrigation prior to closure of the abdomen with an insertion of a drain.
  3. There may be no skin closure of the wound if the appendix has rupture.




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