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Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to?

Are surgeons reluctant to reach for the scalpel?

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Also in this week's column:

Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to?

Asked by Peter Fletcher of Sydney, Australia

Dr Dean Edell, the famous physician on US radio and television, once said that the appendectomy paid off more swimming pool loans of doctors than any other surgical procedure.

A generation ago, the slightest sign of an appendix problem and the doctor reached for the scalpel. Is this surgery still undertaken as often now?

It seems no one knows for sure. And it may differ from place to place. Three UK doctors recently studied this question and published their results in the May 2005 Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Drs A I Ahmed, D Deakin, and S L Parsons of the Department of General Surgery of the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham found that "Appendectomy...is still practiced by 75 per cent of general surgeons in the Mid-Trent region (of the UK)."

Less than 25 per cent of surgeons employ some other form of treatment besides surgery in appendix cases. The doctors add that, "at present, there is no agreed consensus on the management" of such cases. "There is a need to develop a protocol for the management of this common problem."

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

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