Background Appendectomy remains the gold standard in the treatment of acute, uncomplicated appendicitis in the United States. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence that nonoperative management is safe and efficacious. Methods We constructed a decision tree to compare nonoperative management of appendicitis with laparoscopic appendectomy in otherwise healthy adults. Model variables were abstracted from a literature review, data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data, the Medicare Physician Fee schedule, and the American College of Surgeons Surgical Risk Calculator. Uncertainty surrounding parameters of the model was assessed via 1-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses. Results Operative management cost $12,213 per patient. Nonoperative management without interval appendectomy (IA) was the dominant strategy, costing $1,865 less and producing 0.03 more quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Nonoperative management with IA cost $4,271 more than operative management, but yielded only 0.01 additional QALY. One-way sensitivity analysis suggested operative management would become the preferred strategy if the recurrence rate was >40.5% or the total cost of appendectomy was decreased to <$5,468. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis confirmed nonoperative management without IA was the preferred strategy in 95.6% of cases. Conclusion Nonoperative management without IA is the least costly, most effective treatment for acute, uncomplicated appendicitis and warrants further evaluation in a disease thought to be definitively surgical.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (Dr Dawes, Dr Sacks), VA Office of Academic Affiliations (Dr Dawes), and H. H. Lee Research Award (Dr James Wu).