Feasibility of a nonoperative management strategy for uncomplicated acute appendicitis in children

J Am Coll Surg. 2014 Aug;219(2):272-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2014.02.031. Epub 2014 Apr 13.


Background: For decades, urgent operation has been considered the only appropriate management of acute appendicitis in children. The purpose of this study was to investigate the feasibility of nonoperative management of uncomplicated acute appendicitis in children.

Study design: A prospective nonrandomized clinical trial of children with uncomplicated acute appendicitis comparing nonoperative management with urgent appendectomy was performed. The primary result was 30-day success rate of nonoperative management. Secondary outcomes included comparisons of disability days, missed school days, hospital length of stay, and measures of quality of life and health care satisfaction.

Results: Seventy-seven patients were enrolled during October 2012 to October 2013; 30 chose nonoperative management and 47 chose surgery. There were no significant differences in demographic or clinical characteristics. The immediate and 30-day success rates of nonoperative management were 93% (28 of 30) and 90% (27 of 30). There was no evidence of progression of appendicitis to rupture at the time of surgery in the 3 patients for whom nonoperative management failed. Compared with the surgery group, the nonoperative group had fewer disability days (3 vs 17 days; p < 0.0001), returned to school more quickly (3 vs 5 days; p = 0.008), and exhibited higher quality of life scores in both the child (93 vs 88; p = 0.01) and the parent (96 vs 90; p = 0.03), but incurred a longer length of stay (38 vs 20 hours; p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Nonoperative management of uncomplicated acute appendicitis in children is feasible, with a high 30-day success rate and short-term benefits that include quicker recovery and improved quality of life scores. Additional follow-up will allow for determination of longer-term success rate, safety, and cost effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Appendectomy
  • Appendicitis / surgery
  • Appendicitis / therapy*
  • Child
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome