UW researchers find antibiotics effective in treating appendicitis

Oct 6, 2020, 2:15 PM | Updated: Oct 7, 2020, 9:17 am
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UW Medicine in Seattle. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Good news for people afraid of going under the knife: A national study involving University of Washington School of Medicine researchers found that antibiotics can be just as effective in treating appendicitis as the traditional surgery.

In the “Comparing Outcomes of Antibiotic Drugs and Appendectomy” trial, which was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who received antibiotics were found to be faring just as well 30 days out as people who were treated with an appendectomy.

“The main finding for the CODA study was that at 30 days, patients who received antibiotics were no worse than patients who received surgery, as a general quality-of-life health measure,” said Dr. Giana Davidson, a surgeon at the UW Medical Center who directed the clinical coordination of American sites for the trial.

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The trial was conducted among researchers at 25 hospitals in 14 states, and more than 1,550 patients participated. Dr. David Flum, professor and associate chair of surgery at the UW School of Medicine, was a co-principal investigator.

“We knew that you could treat appendicitis with antibiotics, but we didn’t know if you should, from a patient’s perspective,” Davidson said.

Davidson said the antibiotics allowed appendicitis patients with busy schedules to resume their normal activities sooner than if they had to recover from an operation. She said students were often concerned about being able to get back to class in time for an upcoming final.

“When we were initially designing this trial, we wanted to look from the patient’s perspective at, ‘Which is the treatment that really is best for me?,'” she said, adding, “Surgeons felt like, if you take an appendix out, you’re 100% cured — and patients often said, ‘I would do almost anything to avoid a knife.'”

Some of the patients that received antibiotics did have to return to the emergency room a few days later, and about 30% ended up having to have surgery even after the antibiotics.

Overall, the trial showed that most of the patients treated with antibiotics recovered without surgery, a groundbreaking piece of information for appendicitis treatment.

“[Patients] suddenly are going to have much more information that are going to be tailored to what their individual concerns and needs are,” Davidson said.

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UW researchers find antibiotics effective in treating appendicitis