Do not rush into operating and just observe actively if you are not sure about the diagnosis of appendicitis
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The aim of this study was to determine whether the admission and active observation of children where the diagnosis of acute appendicitis is uncertain is a safe and effective way to improve the diagnostic accuracy of appendicitis and safely reduce the incidence of negative laparotomies without increasing complications.
We performed a retrospective cohort study of children who presented with a complaint of right lower quadrant pain and were hospitalized with a diagnosis of appendicitis or suspected appendicitis from 1 January to 31 December 2007.
A total of 569 patients were included in the study. The mean age was 9.5 ± 3.2 (range 1.1–17) years. The number of patients directly operated on with a diagnosis of appendicitis was 186 (32%) from the total of 575 while 389 patients (68%) were observed in the surgical ward as the examination and/or investigation findings were equivocal. Of the 383 patients admitted for observation, 173 (45%) were operated on with a suspicion of appendicitis after 14.4 ± 6.7 h while 210 (55%) were discharged after 1.1 ± 1.2 days as there seemed to have no surgical problem. Our total negative appendectomy rate was 4% (14/350) and total perforation rate was 37.4% (131/350). The patients operated on directly and those operated on after observation were similar, and there was no difference for the preoperative duration of symptom, histopathological diagnosis, postoperative complication rate, postoperative inpatient days and hospital charges. Total hospitalization duration was significantly longer and the hospital charges significantly higher in the negative appendectomy group.
Both the features and results and the complication rates and costs of the group operated on after observation were the same as the directly operated on group. However, patients undergoing a negative appendectomy stayed as inpatients longer than only observation patients with higher treatment charges. We could therefore decrease the negative appendectomy rate, the associated cost and duration of hospitalization without causing extra complications if we observe and investigate patients with right lower quadrant pain with a doubtful diagnosis and did not operate on them directly.
KeywordsAbdominal pain Appendicitis Diagnostic errors Hospitalization Child
The authors thank Salih Ergöçen, MSc for his statistical evaluation and Aydın Yuluğ, MD for his English language revision.
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