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Infection or Inflammation: Are Uncomplicated Acute Appendicitis, Acute Cholecystitis, and Acute Diverticulitis Infectious Diseases?

, Lillian S. Kao, Mikayla Moody, Robert G. Sawyer
Published: 18 January 2023

Abstract:Background: It is recognized increasingly that common surgical infections of the peritoneal cavity may be treated with antibiotic agents alone, or source control surgery with short-course antimicrobial therapy. By extension, testable hypotheses have emerged that such infections may not actually be infectious diseases, but rather represent inflammation that can be treated successfully with neither surgery nor antibiotic agents. The aim of this review is to examine extant data to determine which of uncomplicated acute appendicitis (uAA), uncomplicated acute calculous cholecystitis (uACC), or uncomplicated mild acute diverticulitis (umAD) might be amenable to management using supportive therapy alone, consistent with the principles of antimicrobial stewardship. Methods: Review of pertinent English-language literature and expert opinion. Results: Only two small trials have examined whether uAA can be managed with observation and supportive therapy alone, one of which is underpowered and was stopped prematurely because of challenging patient recruitment. Data are insufficient to determine the safety and efficacy of non-antibiotic therapy of uAA. Uncomplicated acute calculous cholecystitis is not primarily an infectious disease; infection is a secondary phenomenon. Even when bactibilia is present, there is no high-quality evidence to suggest that mild disease should be treated with antibiotic agents. There is evidence to indicate that antibiotic prophylaxis is indicated for urgent/emergency cholecystectomy for uACC, but not in the post-operative period. Uncomplicated mild acute diverticulitis, generally Hinchey 1a or 1b in current nomenclature, does not benefit from antimicrobial agents based on multiple clinical studies. The implication is that umAD is inflammatory and not an infectious disease. Non-antimicrobial management is reasonable. Conclusions: Among the considered disease entities, the evidence is strongest that umAD is not an infectious disease and can be treated without antibiotic agents, intermediate regarding uACC, and lacking for uAA. A plausible hypothesis is that these inflammatory conditions are related to disruption of the normal microbiome, resulting in dysbiosis, which is defined as an imbalance of the natural microflora, especially of the gut, that is believed to contribute to a range of conditions of ill health. As for restorative pre- or probiotic therapy to reconstitute the microbiome, no recommendation can be made in terms of treatment, but it is not recommended for prevention of primary or recurrent disease.
Keywords: abdominal infection / appendicitis / cholecystitis / diverticulitis / dysbiosis / inflammation

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