Scalpel beats drugs for treating appendicitis

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By Maggie Fox

It’s one of the most common medical emergencies – an inflamed or ruptured appendix. It usually ends with a trip to the operating room and the removal of the organ.

But some patients can do just fine with infusions of antibiotics, and more doctors have considered non-surgical treatment of what’s called uncomplicated appendicitis: an inflammation of the appendix that’s not immediately life-threatening. The thinking has been that it must be safer and cheaper if the skin isn’t cut open and a piece of the body removed.

A new study out Wednesday contradicts this idea. People who got antibiotics instead of surgery did not fare better, and they ended up racking up higher medical bills. They were twice as likely to have to come back with a flare-up, a team at Stanford University found.

“People treated with antibiotics alone have a higher chance of coming back needing further treatment for appendicitis-related problems, such as abdominal abscesses,” said Dr. Lindsay Sceats, who led the study team.


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