Surgery For Appendicitis Could Be Avoided According To A New Study


A new study that will be conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital looks at the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy alone as a treatment of appendicitis in children.  This research hopes that some patients will eventually be able to avoid a surgery they do not need.

Appendicitis is the most common reason children have emergency abdominal surgery, with over 80,000 young people sent to the operating room every year.  According to some health care professionals there are as many as half of cases that could have been treated solely through the use of antibiotics.

Surgery has been the only treatment option for appendicitis for 50 to 60 years.  However, this was when high resolution imaging studies were not available for early diagnosis and antibiotics were not effective when it came to treating intra-abdominal infections.  This is not the case today.  Access to CT scans and ultrasounds as well as a wide range of antibiotics allow physicians to be more accurate in their diagnosis and able to treat appendicitis early.  Preliminary data has suggested that when appendicitis is diagnosed early it can be treated with antibiotics. This makes surgery in some cases unnecessary.

Patients who have appendicitis who agree to be a part of the study will be assigned to one of two groups:

  • To a traditional consultation with doctors.
  • To a consultation plus an interactive computer program.  This is designed to guide them through possible treatment options (including potential risks and benefits).

Families of the children in the study will be able to choose the intravenous antibiotic option.  The hospital will monitor patients who choose the antibiotic option.  It the appendicitis does not clear up they will have surgery.  Participants who do not have the surgery, but rather opted for antibiotics, will be followed until they reach age 18 to make sure that the appendicitis does not recur.

This study will hopefully help determine whether children with appendicitis can be treated safely without undergoing surgery.  The study also brings patients and families into the decision making process with the surgeon as partners.

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