Appendicitis in the elderly

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The charts of 68 patients from 65 to 99 years of age who underwent appendectomy for appendicitis were reviewed between 1964 and 1976. Thirty-three were men and 35 women. All patients underwent appendectomy. Four patients had normal appendices. The remainder had appendicitis; 74% were ruptured. The duration of symptoms varied greatly, and was related to outcome. The mean duration was 58 hours, but both those who died and those who suffered complications had significantly longer mean duration while those who had an uncomplicated course had a shorter mean duration of symptoms. The incidence of rupture rose from 60% in those seen with symptoms less than 48 hours to 90% in those with symptoms longer than 49 hours. Delay was invariably related to delay in seeking medical treatment. In no case was the patient under the care of another physician for an extended period of time. Pain was the chief complaint in 63 patients, and was present in all. Seventy-four per cent had fever and 78% had leukocytosis. Those with normal appendices had normal white blood cell counts. Right lower quadrant tenderness was present in 80%. Thirty-nine per cent had significant additional medical problems. Most (73%) had operation within six hours of their original evaluation, and yet the overall complication rate was 34% including six deaths. Delay during evaluation did not correlate with unsatisfactory outcome as did delay in seeking medical attention. The most common complications were due to infection. In at least three of the deaths wound infection was associated with sepsis and death. Delay in seeking medical care, advanced age, and underlying problems were the most significant factors in those who died.

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Lee, J. F. Y., Leow, C. K., & Lau, W. Y. (2000). Appendicitis in the elderly. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery, 70(8), 593–596.

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