Randomized clinical trials comparing antibiotic therapy with appendicectomy for uncomplicated acute appendicitis: meta-analysis

BJS Open. 2022 Jul 7;6(4):zrac100. doi: 10.1093/bjsopen/zrac100.


Background: This aim of this study was to provide an updated meta-analysis comparing antibiotic therapy with appendicectomy in adults (16 years or older) with uncomplicated acute appendicitis.

Methods: A search for randomized clinical trials comparing antibiotic therapy with appendicectomy in adults with uncomplicated acute appendicitis from inception to 3 October 2021 in MEDLINE, Embase and CENTRAL with no language constraints was performed. Studies were excluded if they included paediatric participants or those with complicated appendicitis. Data on complications of treatment, treatment efficacy (defined in the antibiotic group as not undergoing appendicectomy within 1 year of enrolment, versus surgery without complications or no negative histology in the appendicectomy group), readmissions, and length of stay (LOS) were presented.

Results: Eight RCTs involving 3203 participants (1613 antibiotics/1590 appendicectomy; 2041 males/1162 females) were included. There was no significant benefit of antibiotic treatment on complication rates (risk ratio (RR) 0.66, 95 per cent c.i. 0.41 to 1.04). Antibiotics had a reduced treatment efficacy compared with appendicectomy (RR 0.75, 95 per cent c.i. 0.63 to 0.89). Antibiotic treatment at 1 year was successful in 1016 of 1613 (62.9 per cent) participants. There was a six-fold increase in hospital readmissions within 1 year of enrolment in participants receiving antibiotic treatment (RR 6.28, 95 per cent c.i. 2.87 to 13.74). There was no difference in index admission LOS (mean difference 0.15 days (95 per cent c.i. -0.05 to 0.35)).

Conclusions: Earlier optimism regarding the benefits of antibiotic therapy for uncomplicated acute appendicitis does not persist at the same level now that further, large trials have been included. If antibiotic treatment is to be offered routinely as first-line therapy, patients should be counselled appropriately.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Appendectomy
  • Appendicitis* / complications
  • Appendicitis* / drug therapy
  • Appendicitis* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents