Backgrounds: The COVID-19 pandemic presents ongoing challenges for healthcare. Stay at Home orders ('lockdowns') and community fears have been suggested to create reluctance to seek healthcare. We aimed to determine whether the rates of perforated appendicitis and negative appendicectomy have been affected by the pandemic, and to analyse the effect of lockdowns on the management of acute appendicitis in Victoria.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective audit of emergency appendicectomies performed under adult General Surgery units at Monash Health in Victoria from January 2019 to September 2021, including 242 days of lockdown.
Results: 2459 patients were included. Fewer patients had perforated appendicitis during the second lockdown (6.3% versus 10.7% baseline; p = 0.027). The rate of negative appendicectomy was reduced during the first lockdown (4.1% versus 14.9% baseline; p = 0.002) and during intervals between lockdown in 2021 (9.8%; p = 0.010). There was no difference in the rate of perforated appendicitis or negative appendicectomy at other times. Time to surgery and number of appendicectomies performed were also not significantly different. Fewer appendicectomies were performed after hours during lockdowns and in 2021 more generally compared to baseline (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: The lower negative appendicectomy rate during the first lockdown may reflect increased pre-operative imaging or clinical observation for undifferentiated presentations. There was a reduction in perforated appendicitis during the second lockdown, and no significant difference at other times. Contrary to other studies, lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may not create a reluctance to seek healthcare in all regions.
Keywords: COVID-19; appendicitis; pandemics; public health; time-to-treatment.
© 2022 The Authors. ANZ Journal of Surgery published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.