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JAMA. 2018 Sep 25;320(12):1259-1265. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.13201.

Five-Year Follow-up of Antibiotic Therapy for Uncomplicated Acute Appendicitis in the APPAC Randomized Clinical Trial.

Author information

Division of Digestive Surgery and Urology, Department of Digestive Surgery, Turku University Hospital, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
Department of Surgery, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
Department of Public Health, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
Primary Health Care Unit, Hospital District of Southwest Finland, Turku, Finland.
University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia.
Department of Surgery, Mikkeli Central Hospital, Mikkeli, Finland.
Department of Surgery, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland.
Division of Surgery, Gastroenterology, and Oncology, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
Department of Surgery, Jyväskylä Central Hospital, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Department of Surgery, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.
Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.
Department of Surgery, Seinäjoki Central Hospital, Seinäjoki, Finland.
Department of Biostatistics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.
Department of Surgery, Central Hospital of Central Finland, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Jyväskylä University, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Department of Health and Medical Services, Päijät-Häme Joint Authority for Health and Wellbeing, Lahti, Finland.
Department of Radiology, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.
Department of Radiology, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland.



Short-term results support antibiotics as an alternative to surgery for treating uncomplicated acute appendicitis, but long-term outcomes are not known.


To determine the late recurrence rate of appendicitis after antibiotic therapy for the treatment of uncomplicated acute appendicitis.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

Five-year observational follow-up of patients in the Appendicitis Acuta (APPAC) multicenter randomized clinical trial comparing appendectomy with antibiotic therapy, in which 530 patients aged 18 to 60 years with computed tomography-confirmed uncomplicated acute appendicitis were randomized to undergo an appendectomy (n = 273) or receive antibiotic therapy (n = 257). The initial trial was conducted from November 2009 to June 2012 in Finland; last follow-up was September 6, 2017. This current analysis focused on assessing the 5-year outcomes for the group of patients treated with antibiotics alone.


Open appendectomy vs antibiotic therapy with intravenous ertapenem for 3 days followed by 7 days of oral levofloxacin and metronidazole.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

In this analysis, prespecified secondary end points reported at 5-year follow-up included late (after 1 year) appendicitis recurrence after antibiotic treatment, complications, length of hospital stay, and sick leave.


Of the 530 patients (201 women; 329 men) enrolled in the trial, 273 patients (median age, 35 years [IQR, 27-46]) were randomized to undergo appendectomy, and 257 (median age, 33 years, [IQR, 26-47]) were randomized to receive antibiotic therapy. In addition to 70 patients who initially received antibiotics but underwent appendectomy within the first year (27.3% [95% CI, 22.0%-33.2%]; 70/256), 30 additional antibiotic-treated patients (16.1% [95% CI, 11.2%-22.2%]; 30/186) underwent appendectomy between 1 and 5 years. The cumulative incidence of appendicitis recurrence was 34.0% (95% CI, 28.2%-40.1%; 87/256) at 2 years, 35.2% (95% CI, 29.3%-41.4%; 90/256) at 3 years, 37.1% (95% CI, 31.2%-43.3%; 95/256) at 4 years, and 39.1% (95% CI, 33.1%-45.3%; 100/256) at 5 years. Of the 85 patients in the antibiotic group who subsequently underwent appendectomy for recurrent appendicitis, 76 had uncomplicated appendicitis, 2 had complicated appendicitis, and 7 did not have appendicitis. At 5 years, the overall complication rate (surgical site infections, incisional hernias, abdominal pain, and obstructive symptoms) was 24.4% (95% CI, 19.2%-30.3%) (n = 60/246) in the appendectomy group and 6.5% (95% CI, 3.8%-10.4%) (n = 16/246) in antibiotic group (P < .001), which calculates to 17.9 percentage points (95% CI, 11.7-24.1) higher after surgery. There was no difference between groups for length of hospital stay, but there was a significant difference in sick leave (11 days more for the appendectomy group).

Conclusions and Relevance:

Among patients who were initially treated with antibiotics for uncomplicated acute appendicitis, the likelihood of late recurrence within 5 years was 39.1%. This long-term follow-up supports the feasibility of antibiotic treatment alone as an alternative to surgery for uncomplicated acute appendicitis.

Trial Registration: Identifier: NCT01022567.

[Available on 2019-03-25]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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