A study found that antibiotics are almost as effective as removing an appendix through a survey. With the new discovery, undergoing surgery and having the appendix removed may be a thing of the past.

Appendix removal

The doctors split 1,500 patients who fell ill with appendicitis into two groups. Half of the volunteers received a course of antibiotics, while all the others had their organs removed in a routine operation.

More than 70% of patients that were given antibiotics dodged surgery in the following three months, according to results of the University of Washington research.

The patients endured fewer sick days off of school or work, compared to participants who underwent surgery. And patients in both groups reported similar rates of recovery a month after their treatment. The findings also suggest thousands of operations could be avoided if doctors relied on antibiotics.

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The NHS says around 50,000 people in England are admitted to hospital each year with appendicitis. In the US, about 11.6 million cases of appendicitis were reported in 2015, as reported by the DailyMail.

Inflammation of the appendix, a thin finger-like tube at the top of the colon, causes an intense pain in the lower right side of the body and sometimes constipation or diarrhea. The most common form of treatment is surgery, called an appendectomy, to take out the appendix straight away.

What is appendicitis?

According to the NHS, if you have appendicitis, it is likely that your appendix will need to be removed as soon as possible. This is because the appendix can burst within two days after symptoms start. The patient can die if the appendix bursts because infection-causing bacteria can leak into the abdomen.

During surgery, the appendix is removed from the body after doctors make three or four tiny incisions in the abdomen. The cuts are closed with staples or stitches. After the surgery, most patients are able to go home the next day and return to normal activities after a week.

However, there are risks. Around 1 in 10 patients suffer side effects from the operation itself, such as catching a skin infection.

Several European studies have shown most people with appendicitis can be treated successfully with antibiotics instead of having surgery.

The new trial involved 1,552 patients in 14 states, and they were set up to confirm the findings on a larger group of participants. Patients were randomly selected to either undergo an appendectomy or receive antibiotics, which were at first given through an IV drip.

The most common drugs given to patients in the trial included ertapenem, cefoxitin, or metronidazole in addition to ceftriaxone, cefazolin, or levofloxacin. As soon as the patient went home, they kept taking antibiotic pills for 10 days.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it showed benefits and drawbacks for both treatment types.

However, the findings suggested antibiotics could help patients avoid surgery. One 3 in 10 patients had to return for surgery to remove the organ in the following three months, meaning 7 in 10 dodged the operation. Of those patients who did end up having to have the surgery, 11% had it within 48 hours.

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