Purpose: Nonoperative treatment of acute appendicitis appears to be feasible in adults. It is unclear whether the same is true for children.
Methods: Children 5-18 years with <48 h symptoms of acute appendicitis were offered nonoperative treatment: 2 doses of piperacillin IV, then ampicillin/clavulanate ×1 week. Treatment failure (worsening on therapy) and recurrence (after completion of therapy) were noted. Patients who declined enrollment were asked to participate as controls. Cost-utility analysis was performed using Pediatric Quality of Life Scale (PedsQL®) to calculate quality-adjusted life month (QALM) for study and control patients.
Results: Twenty-four patients agreed to undergo nonoperative management, and 50 acted as controls. At a mean follow-up of 14 months, three of the 24 failed on therapy, and 2/21 returned with recurrent appendicitis at 43 and 52 days, respectively. Two patients elected to undergo an interval appendectomy despite absence of symptoms. Appendectomy-free rate at one year was therefore 71% (C.I. 50-87%). No patient developed perforation or other complications. Cost-utility analysis shows a 0.007-0.03 QALM increase and a $1359 savings from $4130 to $2771 per nonoperatively treated patient.
Conclusion: Despite occasional late recurrences, antibiotic-only treatment of early appendicitis in children is feasible, safe, cost-effective and is experienced more favorably by patients and parents.
Keywords: Antibiotics; Appendectomy; Appendicitis; Cost-utility analysis; Nonoperative treatment.
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