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Digestive health centre

Antibiotics with surgery

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you have appendicitis, you'll be given antibiotics to help prevent any infections after surgery. Your doctor will give you the antibiotics as a drip (also called an intravenous infusion or IV). You may need to carry on having the antibiotics for a few days after your operation.

If your appendix bursts, it can cause a serious infection. Most people will need emergency surgery and treatment with antibiotics.

One big summary of the research (called a systematic review) looked at 20 studies. It found that if you're an adult, having antibiotics with surgery for appendicitis can reduce the risk of getting an infection afterwards. [18]

  • With antibiotics, 7 in 100 people got a wound infection.

  • Without antibiotics, 15 in 100 people got a wound infection.

  • With antibiotics, less than 1 in 100 people got an infection inside their abdomen (called an abscess).

  • Without antibiotics, 2 in 100 people got an infection of some kind.

We're not certain how much antibiotics help children with appendicitis. There hasn't been as much research in children as there has for adults. If a child gets to hospital with a burst appendix or a sac of pus inside his or her abdomen, antibiotics help prevent wound infections after their operation. [18] But we need more research to be able to say whether antibiotics help children who don't have these problems.

We don't know which antibiotics are best for appendicitis surgery because there hasn't been much research about this. Here are some antibiotics that might be used (and their brand names): [19] [20] [21]

Antibiotics can have side effects. You may get pain where the drip goes into your body (this will probably be in the back of your hand). Some people get an allergic reaction, feel sick, or get diarrhoea. [19] [20] [21] But the side effects you get will depend on which antibiotics you take.


allergic reaction

You have an allergic reaction when your immune system overreacts to a substance that is normally harmless. You can be allergic to particles in the air you are breathing, like pollen (which causes hay fever) or to chemicals on your skin, like detergents (which can cause a rash). People can also have an allergic reaction to drugs, like penicillin.


These medicines are used to help your immune system fight infection. There are a number of different types of antibiotics that work in different ways to get rid of bacteria, parasites, and other infectious agents. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.


Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.

intravenous infusion

When a medicine or a fluid, such as blood, is fed directly into a vein, it's called an intravenous infusion (or IV). To give you an intravenous infusion, a nurse, technician or a doctor places a narrow plastic tube into a vein (usually in your arm) using a needle. The needle is then removed and the fluid is infused (or dripped) through the tube into the vein.

systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Appendicitis


For references related to Appendicitis click here.
Last Updated: August 22, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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