Is Appendicitis No Longer a Surgical Emergency?

A recent study indicates that a fairly high number of adults with appendicitis could avoid surgery (JAMA 2015 June 15 [doi:10.1001/jama.2015.6154]).

In this study, patients with CT-confirmed acute uncomplicated appendicitis were randomly assigned to either immediate surgery (n=273) or a 1-day of IV ertapenem followed by 7 days of levofloxacin and metronidazole.

Here’s a summary of the study –from GIHepNews: Antibiotic therapy an option for acute appendicitis  Here’s an excerpt:

The primary endpoint for the antibiotic group – resolution of acute appendicitis with no recurrences for a full year – occurred in 73%. The remaining 27% of patients in this group underwent appendectomy during follow-up, at a median of 102 days after initial presentation. None of these patients developed abscesses or serious infections, “suggesting that the decision to delay appendectomy … can be made with a low likelihood of major complications,” the investigators said 

And commentary from Edward Livingston, M.D., is deputy editor of JAMA. Corrine Vons, M.D., Ph.D., is in the digestive surgery department at Jean-Verdier Hospital, Bondy, France. :

The study findings dispel the notion that appendectomy is always an emergency and suggest instead that, given our current precise diagnostic capabilities and effective wide-spectrum antibiotics, a trial of antibiotic therapy is reasonable. However, it’s important to note that children, adolescents, pregnant women, and patients with complications were excluded from this trial so the findings do not apply to those patient groups.

Dr. Livingston and Dr. Vons made these remarks in an editorial accompanying Dr. Salminen’s report (JAMA 2015;313:2327-8).

My Take: This study indicates, at least in adults with uncomplicated appendicitis, that antibiotic treatment is an option. I think resolving the problem definitively would be my preference.  If you had appendicitis, which therapy would you choose? Take the poll.

Related blog post:

This is Analogous to 'Negative' Studies

This is analogous to ‘negative’ studies



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