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Am J Surg. 1990 Sep;160(3):291-3.

A reappraisal of appendicitis in the elderly.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Akron General Medical Center, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Ohio 44307.


Historically, appendicitis in the elderly is associated with higher morbidity and mortality. Ninety-six patients over 60 years of age with appendicitis treated over a 10-year period were reviewed. Only 20% presented classically with anorexia, fever, right lower quadrant pain, and an elevated white blood cell count. One third of the patients had greater than 48 hours delay to admission. Objective diagnostic testing was often confusing and unreliable. At the time of admission, only 51% were diagnosed as having possible appendicitis. Eighty-three percent of our patients underwent surgery within 24 hours, and 72% had frank perforation. Thirty-two percent of those surviving developed complications, and 83% of these patients had perforated appendicitis. Complications were twice as likely in patients with perforation. Despite the relatively high morbidity, there were only four deaths in patients with coexistent carcinoma. Because of the later and atypical presentation of appendicitis in this age group, a high index of suspicion and early operation are important in avoiding perforation and subsequent morbidity.

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