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Delayed Appendectomy in Adults with Acute Appendicitis. Safe or Unsafe?

S. Y. Arain, S. A. Ali, A. S. Memon, S. J. Siddiqui


To examine whether delayed surgical intervention in adult patients with acute appendicitis is safe? Prompt appendectomy has long been the standard of care for acute appendicitis because of the risk of progression to advanced pathology. This time-honored practice has been recently challenged by studies in pediatric patients, which suggested that acute appendicitis can be managed in an elective manner once antibiotic therapy is initiated. No such data are available in adult patients with acute appendicitis. A retrospective review of 1081 patients who underwent an appendectomy for acute appendicitis between January 2004 and January 2008 was conducted. The following parameters were monitored and correlated: Demographics, Time from onset of symptoms to arrival at the emergency room (patient interval) and from arrival to the emergency room to the operating room (hospital interval), Complications, Length of stay, and Length of antibiotic treatment. Pathologic state was graded 1 (G1) for acute appendicitis, 2 (G2) for gangrenous acute appendicitis, 3 (G3) for perforation, and 4 (G4) for a periappendicular abscess. The risk of advanced pathology, defined as a higher pathology grade, increased with the total interval. When this interval was <12 hours, the risk of developing G1, G2, G3, and G4, was 94%, 0%, 3%, and 3%, respectively. These values changed to 60%, 7%, 27%, and 6%, respectively, when the total interval was 48 to 71 hours and to 54%, 7%, 26%, and 13% for longer than 71 hours. Increased length of hospital stay (P<0.001) and antibiotic treatment (P < 0.001) as well as postoperative complications (P < 0.001) also correlated with progressive pathology. In adult patients with acute appendicitis, the risk of developing advanced pathology and postoperative complications increases with time; therefore, delayed appendectomy is unsafe.


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