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Background:There is increasing pressure on surgeons to minimize the time patients stay in hospital, and there is therefore a need to establish guidelines for reasonable lengths of stay for common operations. This study was conducted to test the feasibility and safety of early discharge after open appendicectomy. In addition, this study was performed to provide standards for open appendicectomy against which the results of laparoscopic appendicectomy can be compared.Methods:A prospective study of all patients having open appendicectomy for suspected acute appendicitis at Liverpool Hospital, Sydney during a 4 month period was undertaken. An early discharge programme was established, with the aim of discharging patients within 48 h of operation in uncomplicated cases. Discharge was allowed when the patient was eating, walking, and had passed flatus. Follow up was with the consultant surgeon at 1 week postoperatively, and with a community nurse at 2 weeks. Multivariate linear regression, using the number of postoperative hours to discharge as the outcome, was used to analyse the data for the following four factors: age, gender, incision type, and pathology.Results:One hundred and sixteen consecutive patients were enrolled in the study. The median postoperative stay for all patients was 46 h. Perforation of the appendix, use of a midline laparotomy for appendicectomy, and age significantly prolonged hospital stay, but gender had no effect. The main complication was wound infection, which was seen in 7.5% of patients. No patient had a problem directly related to early discharge. A community nurse saw 81% of patients 2 weeks after discharge. Over three-quarters of the patients seen had returned to full normal activities by 2 weeks, including work or school. Eighty-eight per cent of patients considered the timing of their discharge `good' or `excellent'.Conclusions:Discharge at 2 days after open appendicectomy is both feasible and safe for patients having an unperforated appendix removed through a right iliac fossa incision. Passage of stool is not required prior to discharge. Early discharge is well accepted by patients and may result in financial savings for hospitals where payment is according to Diagnosis-Related Groups. On the basis of the results of the six randomized controlled trials comparing laparoscopic and conventional open appendicectomy published to date, and on the results of this study, the authors conclude that laparoscopic appendicectomy should not yet be considered the `procedure of choice', and surgeons are justified in performing appendicectomy by either method.

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