Management of pediatric appendicitis during the COVID-19 pandemic: A nationwide multicenter cohort study

J Pediatr Surg. 2022 Aug 13;S0022-3468(22)00512-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2022.08.005. Online ahead of print.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted timely access to care for children, including patients with appendicitis. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on management of appendicitis and patient outcomes.

Methods: A multicenter retrospective study was performed including 19 children's hospitals from April 2019-October 2020 of children (age≤18 years) diagnosed with appendicitis. Groups were defined by each hospital's city/state stay-at-home orders (SAHO), designating patients as Pre-COVID (Pre-SAHO) or COVID (Post-SAHO). Demographic, treatment, and outcome data were obtained, and univariate and multivariable analysis was performed.

Results: Of 6,014 patients, 2,413 (40.1%) presented during the COVID-19 pandemic. More patients were managed non-operatively during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to before the pandemic (147 (6.1%) vs 144 (4.0%), p < 0.001). Despite this change, there was no difference in the proportion of complicated appendicitis between groups (1,247 (34.6%) vs 849 (35.2%), p = 0.12). COVID era non-operative patients received fewer additional procedures, including interventional radiology (IR) drain placements, compared to pre-COVID non-operative patients (29 (19.7%) vs 69 (47.9%), p < 0.001). On adjusted analysis, factors associated with increased odds of receiving non-operative management included: increasing duration of symptoms (OR=1.01, 95% CI: 1.01-1.012), African American race (OR=2.4, 95% CI: 1.3-4.6), and testing positive for COVID-19 (OR=10.8, 95% CI: 5.4-21.6).

Conclusion: Non-operative management of appendicitis increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, fewer COVID era cases required IR procedures. These changes in the management of pediatric appendicitis during the COVID pandemic demonstrates the potential for future utilization of non-operative management.

Keywords: COVID-19; Non-operative management; Patient outcomes; Pediatric appendicitis; SARS-CoV-2; Stay at home order.