Pandemic Causing Dangerous Delays Appendicitis Care

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By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors became concerned that people were delaying needed medical care to avoid hospitals. Now a new study hints that some parents may have waited to get emergency treatment for their children’s appendicitis.

Appendicitis is a painful inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that extends from the colon, on the lower right side of the abdomen.

It’s usually treated as a medical emergency, with doctors often surgically removing the appendix to keep it from rupturing.

But in the new study, doctors found a concerning trend at their children’s hospital. During the early months of the pandemic, more children started arriving in the emergency department with a ruptured appendix.

Between March 16 and June 7, 90 children were treated for appendicitis at Inova Children’s Hospital in northern Virginia. Of those kids, nearly 40% had a ruptured appendix.

That compared with only 19% of 70 children treated during the same period in 2019.

The study, which looked at electronic medical records, could not dig into the reasons. But it’s a reasonable guess that parents might have delayed going to the ER because of COVID, said lead researcher Dr. Rick Place, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Inova.

Early in the pandemic, he said, it was clear that many parents were nervous about being in the ER.

“Anecdotally, I can say there was a lot of anxiety. Parents were asking, ‘Can we leave now?’ They couldn’t get out fast enough,” said Place.

And beginning in the spring, studies noted ominous signs that U.S. adults were forgoing needed medical care. Hospitals started seeing fewer patients with conditions as serious as heart attacks and strokes. By June, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that ER visits were down 42% nationally, versus the same time last year.

Less has been known about the pandemic’s impact on pediatric emergency care.

The new findings, published Dec. 4 in the journal JAMA Network Open, come from only one hospital. It’s not clear how common the pattern might have been nationally, or how long it might have persisted. At the time of the study, Place’s team had information into early June.




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