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ANZ J Surg. 2004 May;74(5):324-9.

Protocol-based approach to suspected appendicitis, incorporating the Alvarado score and outpatient antibiotics.

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Division of Surgery, John Hunter Hospital, and University of Newscastle, New South Wales, Australia.



There is evidence that antibiotics can be used as primary treatment for appendicitis, however, delayed surgical treatment might still be associated with perforation. Most patients at risk of perforation have high Alvarado scores. We designed a protocol-based approach to suspected appendicitis, in which the Alvarado score was used to select patients for early treatment with surgery or outpatient antibiotics.


Patients included in the present study were adults and children referred to the surgical service at John Hunter Hospital (Newcastle, Australia) with suspected appendicitis in the 12 months from July 2000. Treatment groups: no treatment (Alvarado score 1-4); antibiotics alone (Alvarado 5-7); early surgery (Alvarado 8-10).


time to operation; duration of hospital stay; non-therapeutic operations; delayed treatment in association with perforation; recurrent appendicitis (for those treated with antibiotics). Comparison group: 142 patients managed with 'best clinical practice' as part of an earlier trial.


One hundred and twenty-two patients were enrolled. Median time to operation was 3.9 h (comparison group 7.3 h, P = 0.014). Median length of stay was 38.5 h (comparison group 44.2 h, P = 0.041). There were two cases of delayed treatment in association with perforation (2/122 = 1.6%, comparison group 2/142 = 1.4%, P = 0.88) and 10 non-therapeutic operations (10/122 = 8.1%, comparison group 15/142 = 10.6%, P = 0.51). Of those whose initial illness was treated successfully with antibiotics, 2/42 (4.8%) subsequently required appendicectomy.


This protocol-based approach to suspected appendicitis is feasible. A prospective controlled study would be required to confirm potential benefits (in terms of short hospital stay) and to confirm that there is not an increase in adverse outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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