Importance of diarrhea as a presenting symptom of appendicitis in very young children

Am J Surg. 1997 Feb;173(2):80-2. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9610(96)00417-5.


Background: Appendicitis is an uncommon diagnosis in very young children. It is frequently complicated by delays in diagnosis, perforation, and lengthy hospital stays.

Objectives: To review our recent experience with appendicitis among children younger than 3 years old, and to identify the independent predictors of a prolonged hospital stay.

Methods: A retrospective case series review was performed on all children under age 3 who had an appendectomy for appendicitis between January 1983 and February 1994. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify the independent predictors of a prolonged hospital stay.

Results: Sixty-three children were identified. Mean age was 2.2 years (range 11 to 35 months). The mean delay from onset of symptoms to presentation was 4.3 days. Fifty-seven percent were initially misdiagnosed. Diarrhea was reported in 33%. Perforation and/or gangrene were found in 84%. Perforation and/or gangrene at laparotomy and a history of diarrhea at presentation were independent predictors of a prolonged hospital stay.

Conclusions: Appendicitis in children under 3 years old is characterized by delays in diagnosis and perforation. A history of diarrhea is an important factor that confuses the diagnosis, prolongs the observation period, and delays appropriate therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Appendectomy
  • Appendicitis / blood
  • Appendicitis / complications
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Appendicitis / surgery
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestinal Perforation / epidemiology
  • Length of Stay
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Leukocytosis / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors