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September 2002

Outcome of Elderly Patients With Appendicitis: Effect of Computed Tomography and Laparoscopy

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery, Trauma Services, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Drs Hui, Major, Avital, Hiatt, and Margulies), and University of California, Los Angeles, the UCLA School of Medicine (Dr Margulies), Los Angeles.

Arch Surg. 2002;137(9):995-1000. doi:10.1001/archsurg.137.9.995

Hypothesis  Elderly patients who have appendicitis have a greater morbidity and mortality rate when compared with younger patients. We hypothesized that recent changes in the diagnosis and management of appendicitis in elderly patients might affect the outcome.

Design  Retrospective review.

Setting  Large metropolitan teaching hospital.

Patients  All patients aged 70 years and older who underwent appendectomy for appendicitis between January 1, 1991, and December 31, 2000, were divided into groups 1 (those treated from January 1, 1991, through December 31, 1995) and 2 (those treated from January 1, 1996, through December 31, 2000).

Main Outcome Measures  Age, sex, preoperative evaluation, operative duration and findings, postoperative course, duration of hospital stay, and mortality rate. Continuous and categorical variables were analyzed using t and χ2 tests, respectively.

Results  Ninety-five patients met inclusionary criteria. The mean age (78 years), sex, preoperative suggestion of appendicitis (group 1, 39 [83%] of 47 patients; group 2, 45 [94%] of 48 patients), and duration of the preoperative hospitalization over 24 hours (group 1, 11 patients [23%]; group 2, 9 patients [19%]) were similar in both groups. There was an increasing use of diagnostic computed tomography (group 1, 13 patients [28%]; group 2, 32 patients [67%]; P<.001) and laparoscopy (group 1, 14 patients [30%]; group 2, 23 patients [48%]; P = .02) between the 2 study periods associated with no significant difference in the duration of hospitalization, frequency of appendiceal perforation or abscess, occurrence of complications, or mortality. The length of operating time increased in the second period (ie, January 1, 1996, through December 31, 2000).

Conclusions  Appendicitis in elderly patients continues to be a challenging surgical problem. While computed tomography may represent a useful diagnostic tool and laparoscopic appendectomy may be appropriate therapy for selected patients, neither has affected outcome when measured for morbidity and mortality rates. Overall results might improve with earlier consideration of the diagnosis in elderly patients with abdominal pain, followed by prompt surgical consultation and operation.