Acute appendicitis is the most common condition requiring emergency operation in children. Late appendicitis is still a major source of morbidity and potential mortality. It has been suggested that managed care programs are responsible for a delay in surgical referral end consequently an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. In light of the increasing use of managed care, the authors reviewed their experience with pediatric acute appendicitis in managed care and indemnity insurance patients. The charts of all pediatric appendectomy patients treated between January 1990 and March 1995 were reviewed. Payor status, surgical and pathological findings, hospital course, and follow-up findings were documented. If the operative note or the pathology report described the appendix as gangrenous or perforated, the case was considered to be late appendicitis. Group I patients had traditional indemnity insurance; group II patients were in our institution's managed care plan. One hundred two patients were identified (28 in group I, 74 in group II). Late appendicitis was found less often in the managed care group (21.6% v 42.9%; P < .01). This resulted in a lower rate of major complications (1.4% v 3.6%) and a lower overall complication rate (2.7% v 7.1%). Group II also had a shorter hospital stay (2.6 days v 4.5 days; (P < .01) and lower average hospital charges ($6,507 v $8,754 (P < .01). These results do not demonstrate any adverse affect on outcome for children with acute appendicitis who have a managed care plan. In fact, the incidence of late appendicitis among these patients was half of that of the indemnity-insured patients. The lower risk of late appendicitis resulted in a shorter length of stay and lower hospital charges. These results suggest that managed care programs can provide quality care along with a significant reduction in costs; no delay in appropriate surgical referral was demonstrated.
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