RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL
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Laparoscopic vs open appendectomy. Prospective randomized study of outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: To compare open appendectomy (OA) with laparoscopic appendectomy (LA) for length of the operation, complications, postoperative pain control, length of hospitalization, postdischarge recovery time, and hospital charges.

DESIGN: Prospective randomized clinical trial of patients with acute appendicitis.

SETTING: Tertiary care, urban teaching hospital.

PATIENTS: A population-based sample of patients (aged > or = 12 years; weight, > 49.7 kg) admitted to a surgical teaching service with a clinical diagnosis of acute appendicitis. Patients were prospectively randomized to either OA or LA during a 20-month period (from April 1, 1994, to December 31, 1995). Fifty-seven patients were initially enrolled in the study; 7 did not complete the study because of a protocol violation. All remaining patients completed the study, including postdischarge follow-up.

INTERVENTIONS: Two (7.4%) of the 27 patients in the LA group required conversion to OA because of technical difficulties. One patient (in the OA group) underwent a second surgical procedure for drainage of a pelvic abscess. Three patients (in the LA group) required second surgical procedures. For analysis, no crossovers were allowed and all patients remained in their originally randomized group.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Length of the operation, intraoperative and postoperative complications, postoperative pain control, length of hospitalization, postdischarge recovery time, and hospital charges.

RESULTS: Fifty patients (19 women and 31 men) were examined. Twenty-seven patients underwent LA, 2 requiring conversion to an OA. Twenty-three patients underwent an OA. Patient demographics were similar between groups. Statistical differences between the 2 groups were found for (1) length of the operation (median, 81.7 vs 66.8 minutes, LA vs OA groups: P < .002), (2) operating room charges (median, $3191 vs $1514, LA vs OA group; P < .001), and (3) total hospital charges (median, $5430 vs $3673, LA vs OA group; P < .001). No statistical differences between the 2 groups were found for (1) length of hospitalization (median, 1.1 vs 1.2 days, LA vs OA group), (2) pain control (mean, 4 vs 3.7 of 10 [0 indicates least pain; 10, most pain], LA vs OA group), (3) recovery time (time necessary before returning to work or school) (median, 14.0 days for both groups), and (4) complications (5 vs 1, LA vs OA group).

CONCLUSIONS: Laparoscopic appendectomies and OAs are comparable for complications, postoperative pain control, length of hospitalization, and recovery time. Patients who underwent an OA had a shorter operative time and lower operating room and hospital charges. Laparoscopic appendectomy does not offer any proved benefits compared with the open approach for the routine patient with acute appendicitis.

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