Background: The role of nonoperative therapy vs immediate appendectomy in the management of children with perforated appendicitis remains undefined. The objective of this study was to rigorously compare these management options in groups of patients with matched clinical characteristics.
Methods: Multicenter case-control study was conducted from 1998 to 2003. We compared patients treated nonoperatively vs those undergoing appendectomy to identify differences in 12 clinical parameters. We then generated a second control group of patients matched for these variables and compared the following outcomes in these clinically similar groups: complication rate, abscess rate, and length of stay (LOS). Analysis was performed according to intention-to-treat principles, using chi2, Fisher exact, and Student t tests.
Results: The only significant difference between patients treated nonoperatively and those treated by appendectomy was the duration of pain on presentation (6.8 vs 3.1 days of pain). We created a second control group of patients undergoing immediate appendectomy matched on duration of pain on presentation to patients treated nonoperatively. These groups continued to be clinically comparable for the other 11 parameters. Compared to this matched control group, the nonoperative group had fewer complications (19% vs 43%, P < .01), fewer abscesses (4% vs 24%, P < .01), and a trend for shorter LOS (6.5 +/- 5.7 vs 8.8 +/- 6.7 days, P = .08).
Conclusions: When nonoperative management for perforated appendicitis was studied using appropriately matched clinical controls, we found that it resulted in a lower complication rate and shorter LOS in the subset of patients presenting with a long duration of pain. Our data suggest that nonoperative management should be prospectively evaluated in children with perforated appendicitis presenting with a history of pain exceeding 5 days.