Antibiotics for appendicitis! Not so fast

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Emerging literature in acute appendicitis favors the nonoperative management of acute appendicitis. However, the actual use of this practice on a national level is not assessed. The aim of this study was to assess the changing trends in nonoperative management of acute appendicitis and its effects on patient outcomes.


We did an 8-year (2004–2011) retrospective analysis of the National Inpatient Sample database. We included all inpatients with the diagnosis of acute appendicitis. Patients with a diagnosis of appendiceal abscess or patients who underwent surgery for any other pathology were excluded from the analysis. Jonckheere-Terpstra trend analysis was performed for operative versus nonoperative management and outcomes.


A total of 436,400 cases of acute appendicitis were identified. Mean age of the population was 33 ± 19.5 years, and 54.5% were male. There was no significant change in the number of acute appendicitis diagnosed over the study period (p = 0.2). During the study period, nonoperative management of acute appendicitis increased significantly from 4.5% in 2004 to 6% in 2011 (p < 0.001). When compared with operatively managed patients, conservatively managed patients had a significantly longer hospital length of stay (3 [2–6] vs. 2 [1–3] days, p < 0.001), and in-hospital complications (27.8% vs. 7%, p < 0.001). On comparison of open and laparoscopic appendectomy, both had shorter hospital length of stay and rate of in-hospital complications. Overall hospital charges were lower in patients managed conservatively (15,441 [8,070–31,688] vs. 20,062 [13,672–29,928] USD, p < 0.001).


Nonoperative management of appendicitis has increased over time; however, outcomes of nonoperative management did not improve over the study period. A more in-depth analysis of patient and system demographics may reveal this disparity in trends.

Level of Evidence

Epidemiologic/prognostic study, level III.

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