COLUMBUS, OH (WOIO) - When it comes to appendicitis, surgery is the standard treatment. Within hours of being diagnosed, patients almost always undergo surgery to remove the appendix.
70,000 appendectomies are performed on children every year. That's about 200 per day.
Now a new study suggests that instead of surgery, antibiotics might do the job which is especially important when it comes to children.
It was during the holiday break a couple of years ago that the Gibson family's plans nearly fell apart.
Little Aria was set to star in a school play, and her parents had booked a surprise trip to Disney, when suddenly Aria was rushed to the hospital.
"They checked her out and did an ultrasound and they told us that she did have appendicitis," said Aria's mother Aubrey Gibson.
Normally, that means emergency surgery within hours and a recovery that can take weeks.
Luckily, Aria was at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus where doctors conducted the first study in the United States to see if they could skip surgery and treat appendicitis with antibiotics alone.
"At least at the end of a year we know that over 3 out of 4, more than 75 percent of kids who chose antibiotics, did not have to have surgery," said Dr. Pete Minneci.
Whether it is surgery or antibiotics, Dr. Kate Deans adds that parents need to pick the method to best suit their family.
"It's really a matter of aligning your preferences, your values, your bias, what you think is most important to you, with the therapy that's best for you and your family," Dr. Deans said. "If we don't have to have surgery, if they don't have to be in pain, if we don't have to have the risk of surgery or anesthesia, it was worth a try."
It's been two years since Aria's battle with appendicitis. She may be too young to appreciate the novel approach doctors took to treat her, but her family will never forget the experiences they shared as a result.
She was able to do her musical and then went to Disney World with no problems.
"I feel great. There's nothing – I haven't experienced anything else. I haven't -- it hasn't hurt or anything," Aria said.
The antibiotics-only approach was only attempted in cases of simple appendicitis when the patient had no complications and it had not become too severe.