PURPOSE: Our goal was to compare initial operative and nonoperative management for periappendiceal abscess complicating appendicitis. METHODS: This study is a retrospective review of 155 consecutive patients with appendicitis complicated by periappendiceal abscess treated between 1992 and 1998. Eighty-eight patients were treated initially nonoperatively, and 67 patients were treated operatively. All patients had localized abdominal tenderness and either computed tomography or intraoperative documentation of an abscess. RESULTS: Our patient population consisted of 107 males and 48 females, with an average age of 33 (range, 16–75) years. Age, gender, comorbidity, white blood cell count, temperature, and heart rate did not differ significantly between groups. For the initial nonoperative management group, the failure rate was 5.8 percent and the appendicitis recurrence rate was 8 percent after a mean follow-up of 36 weeks. The response to treatment of the initial nonoperative group and the initial operative group was compared by length of stay (9±5 daysvs. 9±3 days;P=not significant), days until white blood cell count normalized (3.8±4 daysvs. 3.1±3 days;P=not significant), days until temperature normalized (3.2±3 daysvs. 3.1±2 days;P=not significant), and days until a regular diet was tolerated (4.7±4 daysvs. 4.6±3 days;P=not significant). Complication rate was significantly lower in the nonoperative group (17vs. 36 percent;P=0.008). CONCLUSIONS: Initial nonoperative management of appendicitis complicated by periappendiceal abscess is safe and effective. Patients undergoing initial nonoperative management have a lower rate of complications, but they are at risk for recurrent appendicitis.
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