Most Patients with Appendicitis Don’t Need Surgery, Just Antibiotics



Almost 300,000 Americans undergo an appendectomy each year. But a new study advises some of these people don’t even need surgery. Instead, an antibiotic treatment could safely cure their condition, researchers reported.

The study examined data from over 250 adults in Finland having appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix that were treated with antibiotics. The group was compared with another 270 adults who had surgery for appendicitis. All of the participants were monitored within five years.

When the study was completed, about two-thirds of people who took antibiotics (64 percent) were considered “successfully treated,” meaning they haven’t experienced another attack of appendicitis. The other 36 percent eventually needed to go under the knife.

Published in the journal JAMA on Sept. 25, the study found none of the subjects suffered any harmful consequence from the delay.

Patients who received antibiotics had minimal rates of complications than those who had surgery; and people in the antibiotic group had lesser days off from work, 11 days on average than the surgery group.

The results show that antibiotics compared to surgery is a “feasible, viable and a safe option,” for patients, Dr. Paulina Salminen, a surgeon at Turku University Hospital, Finland informed CBS News.

The use of antibiotics to treat appendicitis has already been suggested by several previous studies, however, these studies did not monitor patients long after their antibiotic treatment. The new study, on the other hand, observed patients for five years.

The researchers pointed out that all patients in the study had uncomplicated appendicitis—meaning their appendix had not burst. To verify that, the subjects went through a CT scan. Patients whose appendix had burst need an urgent operation.

The findings “dispel the notion that uncomplicated acute appendicitis is a surgical emergency,” Dr. Edward Livingston, deputy editor of JAMA, shared.

Livingston said that patients should be offered an option—they should know that antibiotic treatment has a high chance of success, given that their appendicitis is not complicated.

The editor concluded that these patients can also undergo appendectomy “if they do not want to worry about the chance” of the appendix getting inflamed again.

Source: Live Science

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