Nonoperative treatment of acute appendicitis in children

J Pediatr Surg. 2007 Aug;42(8):1439-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2007.03.049.


Background/purpose: Appendicitis is considered by many surgeons to be a surgical emergency for which necessary to avoid perforation of the appendix. Although it has also been treated nonoperatively using antibiotic therapy, experience in such treatment in children with acute appendicitis (AA) is extremely limited. In addition, previous studies on nonoperative treatment (NT) showed it to be a cause of morbidity and mortality. The authors hold that not all appendicitis cases respond to NT because only some of the cases recover. In the present study, 16 of 95 cases with AA were selected for NT according to physical and ultrasound examinations. The clinical and ultrasonographic findings of the cases are presented.

Methods: The medical records of all children with appendicitis treated between August 2003 and March 2006 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients who had history of abdominal pain for less than 24 hours with localized abdominal tenderness and hemodynamic stability underwent NT. Children were treated with parenteral antibiotics (ampicillin with sulbactam, 100 mg x kg(-1) x 24 h(-1), divided into 3 doses daily, and ornidasole, 20 mg x kg(-1) x 24 h(-1), divided into 2 doses daily), intravenous fluid, and nothing by mouth for at least 48 hours.

Results: A total of 136 patients with appendicitis were treated. Of the cases, 95 (70%) were AA, and 41 (30%) had perforated appendicitis. Sixteen (16.8%) cases of AA were selected for NT (12 boys and 4 girls; age range, 5-13 years; mean age, 9 years). The mean anteroposterior diameter of the appendix at the presentation was 7.11 +/- 1.01 mm (range, 6-9.5 mm). Ultrasound examination was repeated after 48 hours of treatment. The mean diameter of the appendix was 4.64 +/- 0.82 mm (range, 3.6-6.8 mm). The difference was statistically significant (t = 9.63, P < .0001). Nonoperative treatment was successful in 15 (93.7%) of the 16 patients.

Conclusion: Hyperplasia of the appendiceal lymphoid follicle frequently causes luminal obstruction. Antibiotic therapy probably causes regression of lymphoid hyperplasia because of suppression of bacterial infection and prevents ischemia and bacterial invasion in the early stage of appendicitis. We found that some of the patients who had a history of abdominal pain for less than 24 hours with localized abdominal tenderness and hemodynamic stability could be treated nonoperatively.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Ampicillin / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis
  • Appendicitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Appendicitis / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ornidazole / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sulbactam / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Ornidazole
  • sultamicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Sulbactam