A meta-analysis comparing conservative treatment versus acute appendectomy for complicated appendicitis (abscess or phlegmon)

Surgery. 2010 Jun;147(6):818-29. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2009.11.013. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


Background: No standardized approach is available for the management of complicated appendicitis defined as appendiceal abscess and phlegmon. This study used meta-analytic techniques to compare conservative treatment versus acute appendectomy.

Methods: Comparative studies were identified by a literature search. The end points evaluated were overall complications, need for reoperation, duration of hospital stay, and duration of intravenous antibiotics. Heterogeneity was assessed and a sensitivity analysis was performed to account for bias in patient selection.

Results: Seventeen studies (16 nonrandomized retrospective and 1 nonrandomized prospective) reported on 1,572 patients: 847 patients received conservative treatment and 725 had acute appendectomy. Conservative treatment was associated with significantly less overall complications, wound infections, abdominal/pelvic abscesses, ileus/bowel obstructions, and reoperations. No significant difference was found in the duration of first hospitalization, the overall duration of hospital stay, and the duration of intravenous antibiotics. Overall complications remained significantly less in the conservative treatment group during sensitivity analysis of studies including only pediatric patients, high-quality studies, more recent studies, and studies with a larger group of patients.

Conclusion: The conservative management of complicated appendicitis is associated with a decrease in complication and reoperation rate compared with acute appendectomy, and it has a similar duration of hospital stay. Because of significant heterogeneity between studies, additional studies should be undertaken to confirm these findings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Abscess / complications*
  • Abdominal Abscess / surgery
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Appendectomy / mortality
  • Appendicitis / complications
  • Appendicitis / mortality
  • Appendicitis / surgery*
  • Appendicitis / therapy*
  • Cellulitis / complications*
  • Cellulitis / surgery
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Perforation / complications
  • Intestinal Perforation / surgery
  • Length of Stay
  • Patient Selection
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents