Antibiotics alone could treat appendicitis

New research has suggested that antibiotics could be used as an effective, less invasive alternative to surgery for treating children with appendicitis.

The research, published in the Pediatrics journal, say that using antibiotics might offer a less invasive alternative to appendix removal surgery, which is the most common emergency surgery for young people in the UK.

Appendicitis affects an estimated one in 13 people at some point in their life, and while surgery remains the ‘gold standard’ treatment, the authors of the study argue that a ‘non-operative treatment for these children’ should be further explored.

The study involved 766 children from countries around the world, not including the UK, of whom 413 were treated for uncomplicated, acute appendicitis with antibiotics alone rather than surgery. The professors found that the use of antibiotics alone was effective for 97 per cent of children undergoing non-surgical treatment, with no adverse effects reported.

However, appendicitis recurred in 14 per cent of the children who did not have surgery - with the researchers arguing that ‘a recurrence of appendicitis’ will leave patients being ‘recommendeded to have an operation to remove the appendix in the long run’.

The review only covered simple, acute appendicitis and did not examine children with complicated appendicitis, such as a perforated appendix or an appendix mass.

Nigel Hall, associate professor of paediatric surgery at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, said: “It has become clear in recent years that in adults there are some patients with appendicitis who can recover from the disease without an operation, and we are frequently asked by parents of children with an appendicitis whether their child really needs an operation to get better."

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