While the advantages of laparoscopic cholecyslectomy are clear, the benefits of laparoscopic appendectomy (LA) are more subtle. We conducted a randomized clinical trial to evaluate whether LA is deserving of more widespread clinical application than it has yet received. Two hundred fiftythree patients with a preoperative diagnosis of acute appendicitis were randomized into three groups. LA with an endoscopic linear stapler (LAS) (U.S. Surgical Corp., Norwalk, Connecticut) was performed on 78 patients, LA with catgut ligatures (LAL) on 89, and open appendectomy (OA) on 86. LA was performed with a three-trocar technique. OA was accomplished through a right lower-quadrant transverse incision. Data with normal distributions were analyzed by analysis of variance. Nonparametric data were analyzed with either the Kruskal-Wallis H test or Fisher's exact test. The mean operative times for the procedures were 66 ± 24 minutes (LAS), 68 ± 25 minutes (LAL), and 58 ± 27 minutes (OA). The relative brevity of OA compared to LAS and LAL was statistically significant (P <0.01). Conversion to open procedures was approximately as frequent in the LAS group (n = 5) and the LAL (n = 6). One OA, 2 LAS, and 11 LAL patients experienced vomiting postoperatively (P <0.05). Two intra-abdominal abscesses occurred in LAS, 4 in LAL, and 0 in OA patients (P = NS). Wound infections were more common following OA (n = 11) than LAL (n = 4) or LAS (n = 0) (P <0.05, <0.001). The mean length of postoperative hospital stay was 2.16 ± 3.2 days (LAS), 2.98 ± 2.7 days (LAL), and 2.83 ± 1.6 (OA) (P <0.05 OA versus LAS). The number of days patients required pain medications overall was not different between groups, but a sub-group analysis of 134 patients who rated their postoperative pain on a visual analogue scale revealed a significantly lower mean level among patients undergoing LA (LAS and LAL) versus OA (P <0.001). Patients undergoing LA resumed regular activities sooner than those undergoing OA (9 ± 9 days versus 14 ± 11 days, P <0.001). Rates of readmission to the hospital were similar for all procedures. Laparoscopic appendectomy appears to have distinct advantages over open appendectomy. The laparoscopic procedures produced less pain and allowed more rapid return to full activities, and LAS required shorter hospital stays. The only disadvantages to the laparoscopic approach were slightly increased operative time for both procedures, and increased emesis following LAL.
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