Factors responsible for the high perforation rate seen in early childhood appendicitis

Am Surg. 1989 Oct;55(10):602-5.


The incidence of perforated appendicitis has remained high in the infant and young child resulting in substantial morbidity. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the factors contributing to the high perforation rate seen in this age group. A retrospective analysis was done on 77 patients under the age of seven who underwent appendectomy for appendicitis. The perforation rate was 72.7 per cent. Duration of pain correlated with patient age and perforation rate. Under the age of five, only 17 per cent had symptoms for less than 36 hours. Children with symptoms that lasted longer than 48 hours had a perforation rate of 98 per cent. Associated illnesses including respiratory infections, otitis media, and gastroenteritis were common in both simple and perforated appendicitis, often leading to a delay in diagnosis. Of patients with perforation, 36 per cent were seen at least once by the primary physician and discharged. The keys to the diagnosis of appendicitis in this young age group were history and physical exam. Right lower quadrant findings were present in 95 per cent of patients with simple appendicitis and 71 per cent of patients with perforation. The primary-care physician and consulting surgeon have crucial roles in diagnosing the disease early in its course.

MeSH terms

  • Appendicitis / complications*
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestinal Perforation / etiology*
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rupture, Spontaneous
  • Vomiting / complications