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Am Surg. 2006 Jun;72(6):474-80.

Advantages of laparoscopic appendectomy in the elderly.

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  • 1Division of Gastrointestinal and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Department of General Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, North Carolina 28203, USA.


Laparoscopic appendectomy (LA) has gained in popularity in recent years. The number of elderly patients undergoing appendectomy has increased as that segment of the population has increased in number; however, the utility and benefits of LA in the elderly population are not well established. We hypothesized that LA in the elderly has distinctive advantages in perioperative outcomes over open appendectomy (OA). We queried the 1997 to 2003 North Carolina Hospital Association Patient Data System for all patients with the primary ICD-9 procedure code for OA and LA. Patients > or = 65 years of age (elderly) were identified and reviewed. Outcomes including length of stay (LOS), charges, complications, discharge location, and mortality were compared between the groups. There were 29,244 appendectomies performed in adult patients (>18 years old) with 2,722 of these in the elderly. The annual percentage of LA performed in the elderly increased from 1997 to 2003 (11.9-26.9%, P < 0.0001). When compared with OA, elderly patients undergoing LA had a shorter LOS (4.6 vs 7.3 days, P = 0.0001), a higher rate of discharge to home (91.4 vs 78.9%, P = 0.0001) as opposed to a step-down facility, fewer complications (13.0 vs 22.4%, P = 0.0001), and a lower mortality rate (0.4 vs 2.1%, P = 0.007). When LA was compared with OA in elderly patients with perforated appendicitis, LA resulted in a shorter LOS (6.8 vs 9.0 days, P = 0.0001), a higher rate of discharge to home (86.6 vs 70.9%, P = 0.0001), but equivalent total charges (dollars 22,334 vs dollars 23,855, P = 0.93) and mortality (1.0 vs 2.98%, P = 0.10). When elderly patients that underwent LA were compared with adult patients (18-64 years old), they had higher total charges (dollars 16,670 vs dollars 11,160, P = 0.0001) but equivalent mortality (0.37 vs 0.15%, P = 0.20). The use of laparoscopy in the elderly has significantly increased in recent years. In general, the safety and efficacy of LA is demonstrated by a reduction in mortality, complications, and LOS when compared with OA. The laparoscopic approach to the perforated appendix in the elderly patient has advantages over OA in terms of decreased LOS and a higher rate of discharge to home as opposed to rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, or skilled nursing care. When compared with all younger adults, the laparoscopic approach in the elderly was associated with equal mortality rates even though hospitalization charges were higher. Laparoscopy may be the preferred approach in elderly patients who require appendectomy.

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