Background: Some studies indicate that noncomplicated acute appendicitis might be treated exclusively with antibiotics instead of an appendectomy. This study was undertaken to assess outcomes in elderly veterans and to determine if operative intervention would lead to substantial complications such that a nonoperative strategy should be investigated. Methods: A retrospective, single-institution analysis was conducted of patients who underwent an appendectomy at the VA North Texas Health Care System over a period of 12 years (from July 2005 to June 2017). Patients who underwent an appendectomy for cancer, interval appendectomy, exploratory laparotomy for perforated appendicitis, or appendectomy as part of another major operation were excluded from the study. Patients were then grouped as elderly (≥60 years old) and young (<60 years old), and differences in outcome were assessed. Univariate and multivariate analyses were also performed to determine if age and comorbid conditions were independent predictors of complications in both cohorts. Results: Of patients who underwent an appendectomy for acute appendicitis (n = 257, male = 90.7%, age = 45.4 ± standard deviation 15.6 years, body mass index = 30.3 ± 6.3 kg/m2), 195 were young (38.7 ± 11.2 years old) and 62 elderly (66 ± 5 years old). More patients were male in the elderly cohort (98.4% vs 88%; P = .01). The incidence of gangrenous and perforated appendicitis was greater in elderly patients (11.3% and 14.4% vs 24 % and 40%, P < .01 each). Diabetes and hypertension, as well as a history of cardiac, pulmonary, and renal diseases, were more than 2-fold greater in older patients. Complications and 30-day readmission rates were similar in both groups (young vs elderly: 7.2% and 9% vs 9.7% and 11%, P > .5 each). Logistic regression analysis showed that age and American Society of Anesthesia level were not independent predictors of complications. A history of cardiac disease and open operation independently predicted complications regardless of age. Unexpected malignancy was 3% in the elderly and 1.5% in the young cohort (P = .6) Conclusion: Complicated appendicitis is more common in elderly patients. Appendectomy in elderly veteran patients has a low rate of complications similar to younger patients and the private sector. Operative intervention in this group of patients is not prohibitive. Further studies are needed to determine if nonoperative intervention is noninferior to an appendectomy in this high-risk patient population.
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