Appendectomy: Removal by surgery of the appendix, the small worm-like appendage of the colon (the large bowel). An appendectomy is performed because of probable appendicitis, inflammation of the wall of the appendix generally associated with infection.
Appendicitis usually is suspected because of the medical history and physical examination. The pain of developing appendicitis is at first diffuse and poorly localized (not confined to one spot) but, as the inflammation extends through the appendix to its outer covering and then to the lining of the abdomen, the pain changes and becomes localized to one small area between the front of the right hip bone and the belly button. The exact point is named after Dr. Charles McBurney - McBurney's point. If the appendix ruptures and infection spreads throughout the abdomen, the pain becomes diffuse again as the entire lining of the abdomen becomes inflamed. Ultrasonography and computerized tomography also may be helpful in diagnosis.
Due to the varying size and location of the appendix and the proximity of other organs to the appendix, it may be difficult to differentiate appendicitis from other intra-abdominal diseases.
The first successful appendectomy was done in Davenport, Iowa in 1885 by Dr. William West Grant. The patient was Mary Gartside, age 22.