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Delaying an Appendectomy: Is it Safe?

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Appendicitis has always been an indication for an urgent operation, as delay is thought to lead to disease progression and therefore worse outcomes. Recent studies suggest that appendectomy can be delayed slightly without worse outcomes, however the literature is contradictory. The goal of our study was to examine the relationship between this delay to surgery and patient outcomes. We reviewed all patients that underwent an appendectomy in our institution from January 2009 to December 2010. We recorded the time of surgical diagnosis from when both the surgical consult and the CT scan (if done) were completed. The delay from surgical diagnosis to incision was measured, and patients were divided into two groups: early (≤6 hours delay) and late (>6 hours delay). Outcome measures were 30-day complication rate, length of stay, perforation rate, and laparoscopic to open conversion rate. Three hundred and seventy-seven patients had appendectomies in the study period, and 35 patients were excluded as per the exclusion criteria leaving 342 in the study: 269 (78.7%) in the early group and 73 (21.3%) in the late group. Complications occurred in 21 patients (6.1%) with no difference between the groups: 16/253 (5.9%) in the early group and 5/73 (6.8%) in the late group (P = 0.93, χ2). The mean (± standard deviation) length of stay was 86.1 ± 67.1 hours in the early group, and 95.9 ± 73.0 hours in the late group. This difference was not significant (P = 0.22). Delaying an appendectomy more than 6 hours, but less than 24 hours from diagnosis is safe and does not lead to worse outcomes. This can help limit the disruption to the schedules of both the surgeon and the operating room.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Surgery, Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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