Antibiotics: a prescription for avoiding appendectomy?

Antibiotics: a prescription for avoiding appendectomy?

For a long time, doctors have treated appendicitis with immediate surgery to remove the infected, inflamed organ.

One major reason why an operation has been preferred is to prevent the appendix from rupturing inside the body, which could lead to the life-threatening spread of bacteria throughout the abdomen.

The logic seems sound. No one wants an infected anything to burst inside them, and appendicitis causes some pretty terrible pain. So why not just take the thing out?

Now, a series of studies makes a pretty convincing case that another, much less invasive option is worth considering.

What if appendicitis could be treated like many other forms of infection we face throughout our lives … with antibiotics?

In a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine, a surgeon from the University of Washington recounted details from six studies that evaluated what happened when appendicitis patients were treated first with antibiotics.

The surgeon reports that most patients in these studies were able to avoid surgery if they had a complication-free case of appendicitis and received antibiotics as a first course of treatment.

The studies showed a variety of advantages for those patients who did not undergo surgery. Some benefits included less time out of work, pain that was equal to or lower than that of surgery patients, and less need for pain-killing narcotics.

The article also references the U.S. Navy’s use of antibiotics to treat sailors stuck at sea.

The author did note that in some cases, appendicitis returns and an appendectomy is performed. This happened in 10 to 37 percent of patients.

While not a perfect strategy for appendicitis treatment, antibiotic use could help some patients avoid going under the knife.

Related Episodes