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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The value of routine histopathological examination of appendicectomy specimens

Alun E Jones*, Alexander W Phillips, John R Jarvis and Kevin Sargen

Author Affiliations

Department of General Surgery, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, Colney Road, Norwich, NR5 7UR, England, UK

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BMC Surgery 2007, 7:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-7-17

Published: 10 August 2007

Abstract

Background

Appendicectomy specimens removed from patients with suspected acute appendicitis often appear macroscopically normal but histopathological analysis of these cases may reveal a more sinister underlying pathology. We evaluated histopathological reports of 1225 appendicectomy specimens at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) over the past three years.

Methods

Histopathology reports for all appendices analysed at the NNUH between March 2003 and March 2006 were reviewed by examination of the case notes. The analysis focussed on the confirmation of acute appendicitis, incidental unexpected incidental findings other than inflammation, whether these abnormalities were suspected on gross examination at the time of surgery, and the effect on patient management and prognosis.

Results

The histopathology reports disclosed a variety of abnormal incidental lesions. Of the 1225 specimens, 46 (3.75%) revealed abnormal diagnoses other than inflammatory changes. Twenty-four (1.96%) of these were clinically significant and affected further patient management. Only two of these (0.16%) were suspected on macroscopic examination intra-operatively.

Conclusion

Twenty-four of the 1225 specimens (1.96%) had an impact on patient management or outcome and were not suspected on macroscopic examination at the time of surgery. These would have been missed had the specimens not been examined microscopically. The intra-operative diagnosis of the surgeon is therefore unreliable in detecting abnormalities of the appendix. This study supports the sending of all appendicectomy specimens for routine histopathological examination.