Obese patients who need to have their appendixes removed fare better after a minimally invasive surgical procedure rather than an open operation, according to a new study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
While the traditional open operation (appendectomy) and minimally invasive procedure (laparoscopic appendectomy) are known to have similar outcomes for people of normal weight, surgeons at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine found that obese patients had fewer complications 30 days after a minimally invasive laparoscopic operation, in which surgeons make one to three small incisions in the abdomen and remove the appendix through one of the small openings. The obese patients had longer hospital stays and higher rates of infectious complications if they underwent the open procedure, whereby a surgeon removes the appendix through a 2-to-4-inch incision in the right side of the abdomen.
"There are early studies that suggest the laparoscopic approach may be less risky in obese patients, but there's not much recent information available to strongly prove it," said lead study author Rodney J. Mason, MBBCh, FACS, associate professor of surgery at Keck School of Medicine. Appendectomies are among the most common types of operations in the United States. Meanwhile, more than 35 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of youth are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We expect to see more and more obese people with medical conditions that require general surgical intervention" Dr. Mason said. "We need to know what approach works best for these patients."
Dr. Mason and colleagues did two analyses in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP-) database of patients who had appendectomy procedures between 2005 and 2009. Approximately 13,330 patients in the database were considered obese, based on a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
In the first analysis, Mason and his team of surgeons compared how all the obese patients in the database fared after having either an open or laparoscopic appendectomy. Results showed that patients who had the open procedure were significantly more likely to have complications, including wound infections, pneumonia, heart attacks, and septic shock. For example, 8 percent of the open appendectomy patients had non-wound related complications like heart attacks, compared with 4 percent of laparoscopy patients. Additionally, open appendectomy patients stayed in the hospital a mean of 2.3 days longer than patients who had the laparoscopic appendectomy. Overall, the laparoscopic procedure was associated with a 57 percent reduction in morbidity compared with the open procedure in obese patients.