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Pediatric Appendectomy: Optimal Surgical Timing and Risk Assessment

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Appendicitis is one of the most common pediatric surgical problems. In the older surgical paradigm, appendectomy was considered to be an emergent procedure; however, with changes to resident work hours and other economic factors, the operation has evolved into an urgent and deliberately planned intervention. This paradigm shift in care has not necessarily seen universal buy-in by all stakeholders. Skeptics worry about the higher incidence of complications, particularly intra-abdominal abscess (IAA), associated with the delay to appendectomy with this strategy. Development of IAA after pediatric appendectomy greatly burdens the healthcare system, incapacitates patients, and limits family functionality. The risk factors that influence the development of IAA after appendectomy were evaluated in 220 children admitted to a large urban teaching hospital over a recent 1.5-year period. Preoperative risk factors included in the study were age, sex, weight, ethnicity, duration and nature of symptoms, white cell count, and ultrasound or computed tomography scan findings (appendicolith, peritoneal fluid, abscess, phlegmon), failed nonoperative management, antibiotics administered, and timing. Intraoperative factors included were timing of appendectomy, surgical and pathological findings of perforation, open or laparoscopic procedure, and use of staple or Endoloop to ligate the appendix. Postoperative factors included were duration and type of antibiotic therapy. There were 94 (43%) perforated and 126 (57%) nonperforated appendicitis during the study period. The incidence of postoperative IAA was 4.5 per cent (nine of 220). Children operated on after overnight antibiotics and resuscitation had a significantly lower risk of IAA as compared with children managed by other strategies (P < 0.0003). Of the preoperative factors, only the presence of a fever in the emergency department (P < 0.001) and identification of complicated appendicitis on imaging (P < 0.0001) were significant risk factors for postoperative abscess development. Perforated appendicitis carries a higher risk of development of IAA that is not reduced by an emergent operative or delayed nonoperative management strategy. The timing of appendectomy appears to be an extremely important factor in reducing the incidence of IAA after all presentations of appendectomy. The role of resuscitation and antibiotics in limiting the effects of the inflammatory cascade and development of laboratory markers that accurately measure the latter need to be the focus of further research in this field.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2014

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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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