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February 1997

AppendectomyImproving Care Through Quality Improvement

Author Affiliations

From the Quality Assurance Office, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), Washington, DC.

Arch Surg. 1997;132(2):153-157. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430260051009

Objective:  To evaluate the practice of appendectomy in Department of Defense hospitals worldwide in a large-scale quality improvement initiative.

Design:  Case series study.

Population and Setting:  A total of 4950 consecutive nonincidental appendectomies performed in 147 Department of Defense hospitals worldwide during a 12-month period ending January 31, 1993.

Results:  The mean age was 25.5 years, with 64% males and 36% females. The patients were assigned a diagnosis of normal appendix (negative appendectomy) in 632 cases (12.8%), acute appendicitis in 3286 cases (66.4%), and perforative appendicitis in 1032 cases (20.9%). The influence of inpatient and outpatient delays on perforation and negative appendectomy rates were studied. In at least 52% of all patients ultimately assigned a diagnosis of perforative appendicitis, the perforation occurred before the first outpatient contact with the health care system, and in at least 68% of all patients ultimately assigned the diagnosis of perforative appendicitis, the perforation occurred before surgical evaluation and admission. Neither outpatient delay in diagnosis nor inpatient delay in diagnosis and treatment was associated with a significant change in the rate of negative appendectomy.

Conclusions:  Perforation rates are determined predominantly by patient- and primary care—related factors over which surgeons have little control. Negative appendectomies are predominantly related to the wide overlap in presenting signs and symptoms between appendicitis and the diseases that most often mimic it but do not require operative intervention. Whereas studies of this type are useful for identifying potential problems at the health care system level, the relatively small number of appendectomies performed by each surgeon precludes analysis at the practitioner level.Arch Surg. 1997;132:153-157