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How Do Antibiotics Treat Appendicitis?

How Do Antibiotics Treat Appendicitis?

Good news—antibiotics might help you avoid surgery.

In the 1984 film Dumb and Dumber, after Lloyd (Jim Carrey) gets robbed by an old lady on a motorized cart, he says to Harry (Jeff Daniels), “I didn't even see it coming.”

Well, folks who get appendicitis rarely see it coming, even though we can safely assume they’re a lot smarter than Lloyd or Harry. But if you’re fortunate enough to have acute yet uncomplicated appendicitis diagnosed (as opposed to being surprised with a ruptured appendix), it’s good to know recent research shows antibiotic treatment has outcomes equal to surgery—which makes it a good option because you avoid surgery!

Abdominal pain, fever and nausea are symptoms of an infected appendix, a small finger-like tube located near the juncture of the large and small intestines. It can be diagnosed using ultrasound, a rectal exam and urine and blood tests. When an infected appendix ruptures, it can cause abdominal peritonitis—with scarring and runaway infection.

Although antibiotics are sometimes used in mild cases of appendicitis, many doctors have been concerned they were just a temporary fix, and if surgery were needed later, they could worsen surgical outcomes. But a five-year study, published in JAMA, has delivered good news on both fronts.

Two-thirds of the patients with uncomplicated cases who were treated with antibiotics ended up not ever needing surgery, and the one-third who did were no worse for wear for the surgical delay. So if you think you may have symptoms of appendicitis, quick action may prevent surgery all together!

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