Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Frequency of Complicated Appendicitis in Pediatric Populations

Background: The clinical course of acute appendicitis, one of the most common diseases needing surgical intervention in children, was affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The global fear and panic about the outbreak and governmental decisions on lockdowns and restrictions led to an increasing number of complicated forms of appendicitis. Objectives: This study aimed to compare different aspects of appendicitis and its complications between the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. Methods: In a retrospective cross-sectional analytical study, we enrolled all patients with a diagnosis of acute appendicitis for two consecutive years. Only children under 14 years of age were included in the study. The patients were divided into two groups based on the time of disease presentation, the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. Demographic features, as well as clinical, laboratory, and imaging findings, were compared between the two groups. Results: Out of 369 patients included in the study, 173 were placed in the pre-pandemic group. There was no significant change in the incidence of appendicitis between the two periods (P = 0.232). However, the incidence of complicated appendicitis increased remarkably during the pandemic (27% vs. 11%, P < 0.001). No substantial differences were found in parameters like age, sex, laboratory findings, and the length of hospital stay between the two groups (P > 0.005). The patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had a significantly higher hospitalization duration (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Our results suggested that the rate of complicated appendicitis was substantially higher during the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic time. Also, the proportion of midline laparotomy was significantly higher after the outbreak. These findings suggested that delays in care provision during the COVID-19 outbreak could have probably contributed to the rise in the incidence of complicated appendicitis in children.