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Antibiotics May Help Treat Some Cases Of Appendicitis

First Posted: Dec 21, 2015 12:07 AM EST
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Health officials at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, now believe that some cases of appendicitis could be treated with antibiotics instead of surgery, according to a recent study.

During their research, study findings showed that antibiotics were just as effective in treating many children with appendicitis, which would have typically required a surgical procedure to solve the problem.

"Families who choose to treat their child's appendicitis with antibiotics, even those who ended up with an appendectomy because the antibiotics didn't work, have expressed that for them it was worth it to try antibiotics to avoid surgery," said Dr. Peter C. Minneci, co-director of the Center for Surgical Outcomes Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in a news release. "These patients avoided the risks of surgery and anesthesia, and they quickly went back to their activities."

Appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix, occurs when bacteria grows in the lower right abdomen, with pain that typically starts from the navel--becoming more severe with time, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although anyone can develop appendicitis, it most often occurs in those between the ages of 10 and 30.

Researchers enrolled 102 patients between the ages of 7 and 17 who were diagnosed with uncomplicated acute appendicitis at the hospital between October 2012 and March 2013, giving families the option to try treatment with antibiotics or go straight to surgery.

From the sample, 37 chose antibiotics alone while 65 went with surgery. Those on antibiotics received intravenous medicines for 24 hours, as well as oral antibiotics for 10 days following discharge from the hospital. Ninety-five percent of these patients showed improvement in a 24-hour-period. Furthermore, a year after treatment, 75 percent of the patients did not have appendicitis again even without surgery. 

"We believe that the results of our study reflect the effectiveness of offering non-operative management to patients and their families in clinical practice," said Dr. Katherine Deans, also co-director of the Center for Surgical Outcomes Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "The patient choice design allows the patient and family's preference to be aligned with their choice of therapy."

The study is published in JAMA Surgery.

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