When you come down with a case of appendicitis, the most common solution is to pack you off to the operating room to get that sucker taken out. But new research is showing that, in fact, for a large number of cases an appendectomy might not be necessary—turns out some good old-fashioned antibiotics could do the trick.
A research team in England analyzed data from four trials of antibiotics used in a total of 900 appendicitis patients. They found in two-thirds of the cases, the antibiotics worked and surgery was avoided in a one year period following the diagnosis. The obvious benefit is that you don't have to get cut open; so that reduces your chances of developing a secondary infection.
The are, however, drawbacks. One is that antibiotics can only be used in "uncomplicated" cases of appendicitis, where no rupture or gangrene (eek!) have occurred. There is also the risk with antibiotic treatment that the infection will recur. It's been found that there's a 20 percent recurrence rate, and many of those cases presented with ruptured appendixes. So, it's a question of whether that risk was worth it.
They'll have to do more research before they can establish whether antibiotics should be made into the first line of treatment, but this finding is especially interesting in light of other research that's found your appendix is of use in repopulating your gut bacteria after a serious intestinal infection. It was previously thought you could just toss away your appendix because it was useless. Well, it may not be useless, and now you may not even need to toss it away. Looks like we can file these discoveries under "better late than never"—well, except for those of you for whom it is already too late. Maybe you guys should ask your doctors for some kind "appendix credit," like a few lottery tickets or a gift certificate to Applebee's or something?