The value of routine histopathological examination of appendicectomy specimens

BMC Surg. 2007 Aug 10:7:17. doi: 10.1186/1471-2482-7-17.


Background: Appendicectomy specimens removed from patients with suspected acute appendicitis often appear macroscopically normal but histopathological analysis of these cases may reveal a more sinister underlying pathology. We evaluated histopathological reports of 1225 appendicectomy specimens at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) over the past three years.

Methods: Histopathology reports for all appendices analysed at the NNUH between March 2003 and March 2006 were reviewed by examination of the case notes. The analysis focussed on the confirmation of acute appendicitis, incidental unexpected incidental findings other than inflammation, whether these abnormalities were suspected on gross examination at the time of surgery, and the effect on patient management and prognosis.

Results: The histopathology reports disclosed a variety of abnormal incidental lesions. Of the 1225 specimens, 46 (3.75%) revealed abnormal diagnoses other than inflammatory changes. Twenty-four (1.96%) of these were clinically significant and affected further patient management. Only two of these (0.16%) were suspected on macroscopic examination intra-operatively.

Conclusion: Twenty-four of the 1225 specimens (1.96%) had an impact on patient management or outcome and were not suspected on macroscopic examination at the time of surgery. These would have been missed had the specimens not been examined microscopically. The intra-operative diagnosis of the surgeon is therefore unreliable in detecting abnormalities of the appendix. This study supports the sending of all appendicectomy specimens for routine histopathological examination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Appendectomy / methods*
  • Appendicitis / etiology
  • Appendicitis / pathology
  • Appendicitis / surgery*
  • Appendix / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Laparoscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies