Increase in Pediatric Perforated Appendicitis in the New York City Metropolitan Region at the Epicenter of the COVID-19 Outbreak

Ann Surg. 2021 Mar 1;273(3):410-415. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004426.


Objective: The aim of the study was to determine whether perforated appendicitis rates in children were influenced by the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) surge.

Background: Disruption of care pathways during a public health crisis may prevent children from obtaining prompt assessment for surgical conditions. Progression of appendicitis to perforation is influenced by timeliness of presentation. In the context of state-mandated controls and public wariness of hospitals, we investigated the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on perforated appendicitis in children.

Study design: We conducted an analysis of all children presenting to 3 hospital sites with acute appendicitis between March 1 and May 7, 2020, corresponding with the peak COVID-19 outbreak in the New York City region. Control variables were collected from the same institutions for the preceding 5 years. The primary outcome measure was appendiceal perforation.

Results: Fifty-five children presented with acute appendicitis over 10 weeks. Compared to a 5-year control cohort of 1291 patients, we observed a higher perforation rate (45% vs 27%, odds ratio 2.23, 95% confidence interval 1.29-3.85, P = 0.005) and longer mean duration of symptoms in children with perforations (71 ± 39 vs 47 ± 27 h, P = 0.001) during the COVID-19 period. There were no differences in perforation rates (55% vs 59%, P = 0.99) or median length of stay (1.0 vs 3.0 days, P = 0.58) among children screening positive or negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Conclusions: Children in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak demonstrated higher rates of perforated appendicitis compared to historical controls. Preoperative detection of SARS-CoV-2 was not associated with inferior outcomes. Although children likely avoid much of the morbidity directly linked to COVID-19, disruption to local healthcare delivery systems may negatively impact other aspects of pediatric surgical disease.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Appendectomy
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis
  • Appendicitis / epidemiology*
  • Appendicitis / surgery
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Retrospective Studies