20% jump in pediatric appendix rupture cases amid COVID-19, study finds

Fear of contracting COVID-19 in a healthcare setting may be associated with a 20 percent increase in pediatric ruptured appendix cases at Falls Church, Va.-based Inova Children's Hospital earlier this year, according to a study published Dec. 4 in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers compared the number of appendicitis cases in children under age 18 at the hospital as well as how many patients presented with perforation, or rupture, between March 16 and June 7, to the same period from last year. In total, 90 children were diagnosed with acute appendicitis during the study period earlier this year, and appendix rupture occurred in 35 cases (39 percent). Last year, 70 children presented with acute appendicitis, and rupture occurred in 13 cases (19 percent,) marking a 20 percent absolute increase in perforation incidence. 

"Over the three months studied, parents displayed visible signs of anxiety when in the emergency department and openly pressed reluctance to visit the hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19," researchers said. "Broad avoidance of the emergency department may lead to increased morbidity and mortality in both children and adults." 

Results also indicated a 55 percent decrease in mean patient volumes in the emergency department, from a mean of 144 patients per day last year to 65 patients during the pandemic. 


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