Five-Year Follow-up of Antibiotic Therapy for Uncomplicated Acute Appendicitis in the APPAC Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Importance

Short-term results support antibiotics as an alternative to surgery for treating uncomplicated acute appendicitis, but long-term outcomes are not known.

Objective

To determine the late recurrence rate of appendicitis after antibiotic therapy for the treatment of uncomplicated acute appendicitis.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Five-year observational follow-up of patients in the Appendicitis Acuta (APPAC) multicenter randomized clinical trial comparing appendectomy with antibiotic therapy, in which 530 patients aged 18 to 60 years with computed tomography–confirmed uncomplicated acute appendicitis were randomized to undergo an appendectomy (n = 273) or receive antibiotic therapy (n = 257). The initial trial was conducted from November 2009 to June 2012 in Finland; last follow-up was September 6, 2017. This current analysis focused on assessing the 5-year outcomes for the group of patients treated with antibiotics alone.

Interventions

Open appendectomy vs antibiotic therapy with intravenous ertapenem for 3 days followed by 7 days of oral levofloxacin and metronidazole.

Main Outcomes and Measures

In this analysis, prespecified secondary end points reported at 5-year follow-up included late (after 1 year) appendicitis recurrence after antibiotic treatment, complications, length of hospital stay, and sick leave.

Results

Of the 530 patients (201 women; 329 men) enrolled in the trial, 273 patients (median age, 35 years [IQR, 27-46]) were randomized to undergo appendectomy, and 257 (median age, 33 years, [IQR, 26-47]) were randomized to receive antibiotic therapy. In addition to 70 patients who initially received antibiotics but underwent appendectomy within the first year (27.3% [95% CI, 22.0%-33.2%]; 70/256), 30 additional antibiotic-treated patients (16.1% [95% CI, 11.2%-22.2%]; 30/186) underwent appendectomy between 1 and 5 years. The cumulative incidence of appendicitis recurrence was 34.0% (95% CI, 28.2%-40.1%; 87/256) at 2 years, 35.2% (95% CI, 29.3%-41.4%; 90/256) at 3 years, 37.1% (95% CI, 31.2%-43.3%; 95/256) at 4 years, and 39.1% (95% CI, 33.1%-45.3%; 100/256) at 5 years. Of the 85 patients in the antibiotic group who subsequently underwent appendectomy for recurrent appendicitis, 76 had uncomplicated appendicitis, 2 had complicated appendicitis, and 7 did not have appendicitis. At 5 years, the overall complication rate (surgical site infections, incisional hernias, abdominal pain, and obstructive symptoms) was 24.4% (95% CI, 19.2%-30.3%) (n = 60/246) in the appendectomy group and 6.5% (95% CI, 3.8%-10.4%) (n = 16/246) in antibiotic group (P < .001), which calculates to 17.9 percentage points (95% CI, 11.7-24.1) higher after surgery. There was no difference between groups for length of hospital stay, but there was a significant difference in sick leave (11 days more for the appendectomy group).

Conclusions and Relevance

Among patients who were initially treated with antibiotics for uncomplicated acute appendicitis, the likelihood of late recurrence within 5 years was 39.1%. This long-term follow-up supports the feasibility of antibiotic treatment alone as an alternative to surgery for uncomplicated acute appendicitis.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01022567

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