Antibiotics can treat appendicitis

New clinical trial has high success rate, could be alternative to surgery

For people with appendicitis, surgery may not be the only option.

In a new study, antibiotics successfully treated the majority of cases of uncomplicated acute appendicitis, where the appendix is inflamed but hasn’t burst or developed stones or infected pockets, researchers report in the June 16 JAMA.

The standard treatment for appendicitis has been to surgically remove the appendix, a cigarette-sized pouch near the start of the large intestine. In the new trial, researchers in Finland randomly assigned 530 appendicitis patients to be treated with either surgery or antibiotics.

Surgery successfully resolved 99 percent of appendicitis cases. But antibiotic treatment could be a first line of defense: Almost 73 percent of patients who got antibiotics avoided surgery in the year following treatment.

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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