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Appendicitis in patients with previous spinal cord injury

The American Journal of Surgery
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0002-9610(99)00207-x
  • Medicine


Abstract Background: Acute abdominal emergencies are particularly dangerous in patients with impaired sensation. Methods: Thirty patients with spinal cord injury who later developed appendicitis were identified in Department of Veterans Affairs computer files over a 5-year period; 26 were evaluable. Results: The mean age was 55 years (range 27 to 79); all were males. Abdominal distention or discomfort was present in 16 of 26 (62%), while 2 of 26 (8%) presented in shock. A palpable right lower quadrant mass was present in 6 of 26 (23%). The mean initial white blood cell count was 18,000/mm 3. Only 9 of 26 (35%) had the diagnosis of appendicitis made on admission. In 12 of 26, computed tomography was done; all correctly diagnosed appendicitis. The mean delay in diagnosis after hospitalization was 2 days (range 0 to 5). Perforated appendicitis was found at surgery in 24 of 26 (92%). Twenty-three of 26 (88%) underwent appendectomy; 3 of 26 (12%) underwent right colectomy. The 30-day mortality rate was 4%. Six of 26 (23%) developed a postoperative complication. The mean length of stay was 16 days. Conclusions: Acute appendicitis in spinal-cord-injured patients frequently presents late and complications are common. Computed tomography appears to be an excellent diagnostic modality. Some of the adverse outcomes which are related to preexisting spinal cord injury may be preventable with early intervention.

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