Patient Care

Antibiotic Therapy, Appendectomy for Uncomplicated Acute Appendicitis


Clinical question: Is antibiotic therapy noninferior to appendectomy for treatment of uncomplicated acute appendicitis?

Background: Previous randomized clinical trials have compared antibiotic therapy versus appendectomy for the treatment of uncomplicated, acute appendicitis. Each of these studies had significant limitations, and appendectomy has remained the standard of care.

Study design: Noninferiority, randomized clinical trial.

Setting: Six hospitals in Finland.

Synopsis: Investigators randomized 530 patients with uncomplicated appendicitis confirmed on CT to appendectomy or antibiotic therapy, with a noninferiority margin of 24%. Of the 256 patients randomized to antibiotics who were available for follow-up, 70 received surgical intervention within one year. This resulted in a difference between treatment groups of -27%. Further analysis revealed that five of those patients had normal appendices and did not actually require appendectomy. Secondary outcome analysis demonstrated a significantly lower complication rate among patients in the antibiotic group (2.8%) compared with the surgical group (20.5%); however, the open operative approach used on most patients may have resulted in increased wound complications.

Although noninferiority of antibiotic treatment was not demonstrated, the majority of patients in the antibiotic group (73%) were found to have successful treatment with antibiotics alone. None of these patients, including those eventually undergoing appendectomy, suffered major complications. Although the overall approach to uncomplicated appendicitis may not change, physicians and patients should utilize this data to make an informed decision between antibiotic treatment and appendectomy.

Bottom line: In patients with CT-proven, uncomplicated acute appendicitis, antibiotic treatment did not meet the pre-specified threshold for noninferiority compared with appendectomy, yet a significant majority of patients in the antibiotic arm had successful recovery.

Citation: Salminen P, Paajanen H, Rautio T, et al. Antibiotic therapy vs appendectomy for treatment of uncomplicated acute appendicitis: The APPAC randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015;313(23):2340-2348

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