Nonoperative treatment (NOT) with antibiotics alone of acute uncomplicated appendicitis (AUA) in children has been proposed as an alternative to appendectomy.
To determine safety and efficacy of NOT based on current literature.
Three electronic databases.
All articles reporting NOT for AUA in children.
Two reviewers independently verified study inclusion and extracted data.
Ten articles reporting 413 children receiving NOT were included. Six, including 1 randomized controlled trial, compared NOT with appendectomy. The remaining 4 reported outcomes of children receiving NOT without a comparison group. NOT was effective as the initial treatment in 97% of children (95% confidence interval [CI] 96% to 99%). Initial length of hospital stay was shorter in children treated with appendectomy compared with NOT (mean difference 0.5 days [95% CI 0.2 to 0.8]; P = .002). At final reported follow-up (range 8 weeks to 4 years), NOT remained effective (no appendectomy performed) in 82% of children (95% CI 77% to 87%). Recurrent appendicitis occurred in 14% (95% CI 7% to 21%). Complications and total length of hospital stay during follow-up were similar for NOT and appendectomy. No serious adverse events related to NOT were reported.
The lack of prospective randomized studies limits definitive conclusions to influence clinical practice.
Current data suggest that NOT is safe. It appears effective as initial treatment in 97% of children with AUA, and the rate of recurrent appendicitis is 14%. Longer-term clinical outcomes and cost-effectiveness of NOT compared with appendicectomy require further evaluation, preferably in large randomized trials, to reliably inform decision-making.