Antibiotics vs. Appendectomy for Acute Uncomplicated Appendicitis in Adults: Review of the Evidence and Future Directions

Huston, J. M.; Kao, L. S.; Chang, P. K.; Sanders, J. M.; Buckman, S.; Adams, C. A.; Cocanour, C. S.; Parli, S. E.; Grabowski, J.; Diaz, J.; Tessier, J. M.; Duane, T. M.

Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2017 Jun 15; 18(5):527-535


BACKGROUND: Acute appendicitis is the most common abdominal surgical emergency in the United States, with a lifetime risk of 7%-8%. The treatment paradigm for complicated appendicitis has evolved over the past decade, and many cases now are managed by broad-spectrum antibiotics. We determined the role of non-operative and operative management in adult patients with uncomplicated appendicitis. METHODS: Several meta-analyses have attempted to clarify the debate. Arguably the most influential is the Appendicitis Acuta (APPAC) Trial. RESULTS: According to the non-inferiority analysis and a pre-specified non-inferiority margin of -24%, the APPAC did not demonstrate non-inferiority of antibiotics vs. appendectomy. Significantly, however, the operations were nearly always open, whereas the majority of appendectomies in the United States are done laparoscopically; and laparoscopic and open appendectomies are not equivalent operations. Treatment with antibiotics is efficacious more than 70% of the time. However, a switch to an antimicrobial-only approach may result in a greater probability of antimicrobial-associated collateral damage, both to the host patient and to antibiotic susceptibility patterns. A surgery-only approach would result in a reduction in antibiotic exposure, a consideration in these days of focus on antimicrobial stewardship. CONCLUSION: Future studies should focus on isolating the characteristics of appendicitis most susceptible to antibiotics, using laparoscopic operations as controls and identifying long-term side effects such as antibiotic resistance or Clostridium difficile colitis.

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