Appendicitis in pregnancy: diagnosis, management and complications

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1999 Oct;78(9):758-62.


Background: Acute appendicitis is the most common surgical emergency in pregnancy. The purpose of this study is to investigate the clinical presentation, management and outcome in patients who underwent appendectomy during pregnancy.

Material and methods: The case records of 56 women who underwent appendectomy during pregnancy between January 1985 and December 1997 were reviewed and analyzed.

Results: The incidence of appendicitis in pregnancy was one in 766 births. The preoperative diagnosis was correct in 75% of the cases. Uterine contractions and a history of diffuse or periumbilical pain migrating to the right lower abdominal quadrant were significantly more frequent among women with appendicitis compared to those patients where the appendectomy revealed a normal appendices. Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, leukocyte count, CRP and body temperature were not helpful in establishing the correct diagnosis. There was no maternal morbidity related to the appendectomy. Pregnancy complications were found to be considerable: 4/12 (33%) who underwent appendectomy for appendicitis during the first trimester aborted spontaneously. Second trimester appendectomy for appendicitis was followed by premature delivery in 4/28 (14%). However, no pregnancy complications were observed following third trimester appendectomy for appendicitis. We found no increase in pregnancy complications in cases with perforated appendicitis.

Conclusion: Appendicitis in pregnancy should be suspected when a pregnant woman complains of new abdominal pain. No laboratory finding was found to be diagnostic for acute appendicitis during pregnancy. Considerable fetal loss was found after appendectomy during pregnancy in the first and second trimester. No increase in pregnancy complications in cases with perforated appendicitis was observed. The combination of symptoms and clinical judgement is still vital in deciding which patient needs surgical treatment. Based on the results in the present study we recommend prophylactic antibiotic treatment in all laparotomies during pregnancy when appendicitis is suspected.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / complications
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Appendectomy / adverse effects
  • Appendectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Appendicitis / complications*
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis
  • Appendicitis / epidemiology*
  • Appendicitis / therapy
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mesenteric Lymphadenitis / complications
  • Mesenteric Lymphadenitis / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / therapy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Pyelonephritis / complications
  • Pyelonephritis / etiology
  • Rupture, Spontaneous / complications
  • Sweden


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents