META-ANALYSIS
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A meta-analysis of laparoscopic versus open appendectomy in patients suspected of having acute appendicitis.

OBJECTIVE: To determine if any significant differences exist between laparoscopic appendectomy (LA) and open appendectomy (OA).

DESIGN: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing LA to OA.

DATA SOURCES: An extensive literature search was conducted for appropriate articles published between January 1990 and March 1997. Articles were initially retrieved through MEDLINE with MeSH terms "appendicitis" or "appendectomy" and "laparoscopy". Additional methods included cross-referencing bibliographics of retrieved articles, hand searching abstracts from relevant meetings and consultation with a content expert.

STUDY SELECTION: Only RCTs published in English in which patients had a preoperative diagnosis of acute appendicitis were included.

DATA EXTRACTION: The outcomes of interest included operating time, hospital stay, readmission rates, return to normal activity and complications. The Cochrane Collaboration Review Manager 3.0 was used to calculate odds ratios (OR), weighted mean differences (WMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). The random-effects model was used for statistical analysis.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Twelve trials met the inclusion criteria. Because there were insufficient data in some trials, operating time, hospitalization and return to work were assessed in only 8 trials. Mean operating time was significantly longer with LA (WMD 18.10 minutes, 95% CI 12.87 to 23.15 minutes). There were fewer wound infections in LA (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.69), but no significant differences in intra-abdominal abscess rates (OR 1.94, 95% CI 0.68 to 5.58). There was no significant difference in the mean length of hospital stay (WMD -0.16 days, 95% CI -0.44 to 0.15 days) or readmission rates (OR 1.16, 95% CI 0.54 to 2.48). However, the return to normal activity was significantly earlier with LA (WMD -5.79 days, 95% CI -7.38 to -4.21 days). Sensitivity analyses did not affect the results.

CONCLUSION: This meta-analysis suggests that operating room time is significantly longer, hospital stay is unchanged but return to normal activities is significantly earlier with LA.

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