Where have all the appendicectomies gone?

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2021 Apr;103(4):250-254. doi: 10.1308/rcsann.2020.7128. Epub 2021 Mar 8.


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic stimulated a national lockdown in the UK. The public were advised to avoid unnecessary hospital attendances and health professionals were advised to avoid aerosol-generating procedures wherever possible. The authors hypothesised that these measures would result in a reduction in the number of patients presenting to hospital with acute appendicitis and alter treatment choices.

Methods: A multicentred, prospective observational study was undertaken during April 2020 to identify adults treated for acute appendicitis. Searches of operative and radiological records were performed to identify patients treated during April 2018 and April 2019 for comparison.

Results: A total of 190 patients were treated for acute appendicitis pre-lockdown compared with 64 patients treated during lockdown. Patients treated during the pandemic were more likely to have a higher American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) score (p = 0.049) and to have delayed their presentation to hospital (2 versus 3 days, p = 0.03). During the lockdown, the use of computed tomography (CT) increased from 36.3% to 85.9% (p < 0.001), the use of an antibiotic-only approach increased from 6.2% to 40.6% (p < 0.001) and the rate of laparoscopic appendicectomy reduced from 85.3% to 17.2% (p < 0.001). The negative appendicectomy rate decreased from 21.7% to 7.1% during lockdown (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: The COVID-19 lockdown was associated with a decreased incidence of acute appendicitis and a significant shift in the management approach. The increased use of CT allows the identification of simple appendicitis for conservative treatment and decreases the negative appendicectomy rate.

Keywords: Antibacterial agents; Appendicectomy; Appendicitis; COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Appendectomy / methods
  • Appendectomy / trends*
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Appendicitis / drug therapy
  • Appendicitis / epidemiology
  • Appendicitis / surgery*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Conservative Treatment / methods
  • Conservative Treatment / trends
  • Delayed Diagnosis / trends
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents