Send to

Choose Destination
Br J Surg. 2001 Dec;88(12):1570-7.

Suspected acute appendicitis: trends in management over 30 years.

Author information

Department of Surgery, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK.



Tradition taught that patients with signs suspicious of acute appendicitis should be explored surgically, but studies in the 1960s found that if this group was closely observed about one-third recovered without treatment. To differentiate these patients a strict regimen of active observation was introduced and this has now been studied over 30 years. Ultrasonography, laparoscopy and computed tomography (CT) have also been used to clarify the diagnosis in these patients.


Papers on the management of patients with suspected appendicitis published since 1970 were traced through Index Medicus, English-language journals and Medline. All those that mention the use of observation are reviewed, with selective reports on the other methods used. The advantages and disadvantages of various methods of management are compared.


Active observation has yielded a consistently low negative appendicectomy rate without a rise in the perforation rate; there was one death in over 1600 patients. It has proved to be a practical method of discriminating between patients who do and do not need an operation. In this situation, both ultrasonography and CT yield some false-negative reports, so results must be checked at the bedside. Furthermore, CT involves exposure to significant doses of radiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center