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IntroductionAcute appendicitis in the developing world has a markedly different disease profile to that in the developed world.MethodsA retrospective study was undertaken over a four-year period at a university hospital in South Africa to review the disease spectrum and the clinical outcome of acute appendicitis.ResultsA total of 1,004 patients (54% male, median age: 18 years) with intraoperatively confirmed appendicitis were reviewed. Over half (56%) were from the urban district within the city of Pietermaritzburg and the remaining 44% were from the rural health district. The median duration of illness from onset to definitive care was 4 days. Sixty per cent of appendices were perforated and associated with intra-abdominal contamination. Forty per cent of patients required reoperation to control intra-abdominal sepsis. Ten per cent required admission to the intensive care unit. The median overall length of hospital stay was 5 days. The mortality rate was 1%. Rural patients had a longer median duration of illness (3 vs 5 days, p<0.001) as well as a more advanced disease profile associated with perforation and severe intra-abdominal sepsis (19% vs 71%, p<0.001). Female patients had a longer median duration of illness (3 vs 4 days, p<0.001), were more likely to present with severe intra-abdominal sepsis (31% vs 54%, p<0.001) and were more likely to require a laparotomy (50% vs 73%, p<0.001). The total cost of managing the entire cohort of 1,004 patients over the 4-year period was £2,060,972.ConclusionsAcute appendicitis in South Africa is a serious disease associated with significant morbidity. Late presentation is common. Female and rural patients have the worst clinical outcomes, with significant cost to the health system.

Original publication





Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England

Publication Date





390 - 395


Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Hospital Complex, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal , South Africa.


Humans, Appendicitis, Acute Disease, Morbidity, Retrospective Studies, Developing Countries, Adolescent, Adult, Rural Population, Urban Population, South Africa, Female, Male, Young Adult