MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Appendectomy for appendicitis is the most common emergency surgery procedure in the United States. Now there is growing evidence that some patients may avoid or delay appendix removal and receive treatment with antibiotics instead.
Five years ago, Heather VanDusen ended up in the emergency room at the University of Washington Medical Center.
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“I was in real pain, more than I had ever felt with stomach issues before. So much so that I felt like throwing up,” VanDusen said.
The diagnosis was appendicitis, which usually meant urgent surgery to remove the infected or inflamed appendix.
Now, the latest research has led the American College of Surgeons to say that antibiotics can be a first-line treatment for many patients.
“If you have appendicitis and go to the emergency room, you have options for treatment with surgery or antibiotics,” said Dr. Giana Davidson, associate professor of surgery at UW Medicine.
Davidson is the co-author of the largest randomized clinical trial ever for the treatment of appendicitis.
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Over 1,500 patients have received either appendectomy or antibiotics. In the first three months, nearly seven out of ten patients in the antibiotic group avoided surgery. Four years later, just under half of the patients in the antibiotic group had surgery.
The researchers created an online tool to help patients and surgeons discuss the pros and cons of each approach based on the current evidence.
“We hope this will help people discuss with their surgeons which treatment option is best for them at this time,” Davidson said.
VanDusen preferred antibiotics to an appendectomy.
“They didn’t make me feel better. I was really tired. I had a strange metallic taste, ”she said. “But after I finished the course of antibiotics, my life returned to normal. I never have I have not had another episode.
She avoided surgery and is grateful that she was able to make an informed decision about her health.
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The UW clinical trial did not include children, but researchers say more studies are looking at whether antibiotics might work for pediatric patients.