Diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis: systematic review and meta-analysis

Ryan Lamm, Sunjay S. Kumar, Amelia T. Collings, Ivy N. Haskins, Ahmed Abou-Setta, Nisha Narula, Pramod Nepal, Nader M. Hanna, Dimitrios I. Athanasiadis, Stefan Scholz, Joel F. Bradley, Arianne T. Train, Philip H. Pucher, Francisco Quinteros, Bethany Slater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The optimal diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis remains controversial. This systematic review details the evidence and current best practices for the evaluation and management of uncomplicated and complicated appendicitis in adults and children. Methods: Eight questions regarding the diagnosis and management of appendicitis were formulated. PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane and clinicaltrials.gov/NLM were queried for articles published from 2010 to 2022 with key words related to at least one question. Randomized and non-randomized studies were included. Two reviewers screened each publication for eligibility and then extracted data from eligible studies. Random effects meta-analyses were performed on all quantitative data. The quality of randomized and non-randomized studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias 2.0 or Newcastle Ottawa Scale, respectively. Results: 2792 studies were screened and 261 were included. Most had a high risk of bias. Computerized tomography scan yielded the highest sensitivity (> 80%) and specificity (> 93%) in the adult population, although high variability existed. In adults with uncomplicated appendicitis, non-operative management resulted in higher odds of readmission (OR 6.10) and need for operation (OR 20.09), but less time to return to work/school (SMD − 1.78). In pediatric patients with uncomplicated appendicitis, non-operative management also resulted in higher odds of need for operation (OR 38.31). In adult patients with complicated appendicitis, there were higher odds of need for operation following antibiotic treatment only (OR 29.00), while pediatric patients had higher odds of abscess formation (OR 2.23). In pediatric patients undergoing appendectomy for complicated appendicitis, higher risk of reoperation at any time point was observed in patients who had drains placed at the time of operation (RR 2.04). Conclusions: This review demonstrates the diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis remains nuanced. A personalized approach and appropriate patient selection remain key to treatment success. Further research on controversies in treatment would be useful for optimal management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8933-8990
Number of pages58
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Appendectomy
  • Appendicitis
  • Meta-analysis
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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