Appendicitis Treatment Options

Learn more about the pros and cons of each treatment on the CODA Trial Results page.

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a common swelling of the appendix, a finger-sized tube attached to the large intestine. The swelling is caused by an infection which is painful and may make you feel sick.

How Is Appendicitis Treated?

To date, most patients in the United States have surgery, called an appendectomy, to take out the appendix. But six European studies show that most people with appendicitis can be treated successfully with medicines called antibiotics instead of having surgery. Most of these previous studies were small and included mostly younger patients. As a result, many questions remain, including whether patients with appendicitis seen at healthcare practices in the United States would have similar results. Perhaps because of these remaining questions, as recently as 2014, more than 95% of patients with appendicitis in the United States were treated with an appendectomy.


Surgery to take out the appendix is called an appendectomy. Most times, an appendectomy is done with three or four tiny incisions, or cuts, on the belly. This is called laparoscopic surgery. Sometimes, surgery is done with a single, larger incision. This is called open surgery.

During surgery, the appendix is removed from the body. Then the cuts on the belly are closed with staples or stitches.

After surgery, most patients go home by the next day. Some stay in the hospital for an extra day or longer. Most patients are sent home with pain medicine to take as needed and return to normal activities after about 1 week. 

What Are The Benefits?

Surgery removes the cause of the infection. After the appendix is removed, patients do not get appendicitis again.

What Are The Risks?

About 1 out of 10 patients has a problem after surgery. Most of these problems are minor, such as a skin infection where the incisions were made. 

Serious risks after surgery include infections or bleeding inside the belly, or, very rarely, leaking from the intestine where the appendix was attached. These more serious problems do not happen very often. If they do happen, another surgery might be needed to fix them.


Antibiotics are medicines that fight infection. If appendicitis is treated with antibiotics and the patient feels well enough to go home from the emergency room, they might not have to stay in the hospital at all. Or, they may stay in the hospital for a day or two depending on how they feel.

First, the antibiotics are given through a small plastic tube in the vein. This tube is called an IV. While the patient is getting antibiotics, they may also get medicines to treat pain and nausea.

Once the patient goes home, they will have to keep taking antibiotic pills for a total of 10 days. It’s important that they take the full 10 days of antibiotics, even if they feel better. They will also be given pain medicine to take home with them that they can take as needed.

What Are The Benefits?

If antibiotics work, the patient will not need to have surgery.

What Are The Risks?

The most common risks of antibiotics are upset stomach, diarrhea, and skin rashes. Serious problems from taking antibiotics are very rare.