Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE Table of Contents   
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 114-117
Appendectomy during pregnancy in sickle cell disease patients

Department of Surgery, Medical College - Alhasa, King Faisal University, P.O. Box 1164, Hofuf, Al-Hassa 31982, Saudi Arabia

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Background/Aim: Acute appendicitis during pregnancy is the most common problem encountered in general surgery. However, limited data are available regarding acute appendicitis in pregnant sickle cell disease (SCD) patients. We aimed to study was the clinical presentation, management, and outcome in SCD patients who underwent appendectomy for suspected acute appendicitis during pregnancy. Materials and Methods: Between January 1998 and December 2006, 65 pregnant patients with clinically suspected appendicitis underwent surgery at our hospital of whom 11 were SCD patients. Data collected retrospectively included age, gestational stage, clinical signs and symptoms, operative findings, and complications. Results: Eleven out of 65 (16.9%) were SCD patients. The mean age in the SCD group was 22.5 years while the mean gravida and parity values were 2.0 and 1.1, respectively. The mean HbS, HbF, and HbA2 values were 71.1, 26.2, and 2.6%, respectively. Abdominal pain and vomiting were the most common presenting symptoms regardless of the gestational age. Abdominal and rebound tenderness were the most common physical signs. The mean operative time was 49 min (range: 35-125 min) and the average length of postoperative hospital stay was 4.7 days (2-8 days). There was no maternal death but one patient had spontaneous abortion during the first trimester, two days after the operation. Two patients had premature, postoperative delivery at 30 and 31 weeks of gestation. Conclusion: The clinical manifestations and diagnosis of appendicitis in sickler pregnant patients are similar to those in nonsickler pregnant patients.

Keywords: Acute appendicitis, pregnancy, sickle cell disease

How to cite this article:
Al-Mulhim AS. Appendectomy during pregnancy in sickle cell disease patients. Saudi J Gastroenterol 2008;14:114-7

How to cite this URL:
Al-Mulhim AS. Appendectomy during pregnancy in sickle cell disease patients. Saudi J Gastroenterol [serial online] 2008 [cited 2021 Feb 28];14:114-7. Available from:

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetically transmitted disorder of red blood cells. It is present throughout Saudi Arabia and is common in the Al Hassa area, with an incidence of 1.08%. [1] Pregnancies in SCD patients present a clinical challenge as maternal mortality is 1-2% and perinatal mortality is 5-6%. [2],[3] Acute appendicitis is the most common extrauterine surgical emergency seen in pregnancy, and appendectomy is the most common nonobstetric procedure being performed on pregnant patients. [4],[5],[6],[7]

There are no data for acute appendicitis in pregnant SCD patients. We report our institutional experience with appendectomy for pregnant patients with SCD. Our aim was to explore the clinical presentation, management, and outcome in SCD patients who underwent appendectomy for suspected acute appendicitis during pregnancy.

   Materials and Methods Top

Between January 1998 and December 2006, 65 pregnant patients underwent appendectomy for clinically suspected appendicitis in the general surgery department of King Fahad Hospital-Hofuf (67,990 deliveries in the study period). Eleven (16.9%) of the 65 pregnant patients were SCD patients, who formed the study group. Clinical data collected retrospectively included patients' age, gravidity, parity, gestational age, the presenting symptoms, percentage of sickle cell hemoglobin, extent of sickle cell crisis, blood transfusion, the time between the onset of symptoms and surgery, the severity of the inflammatory changes in the appendices, operative time, length of postoperative hospital stay, fetus birth weight, mode of delivery, and postoperative complications.

The criteria for the diagnosis of SCD were the absence of HbA 1 , HbS >40%, and HbA 2 <3.5%. The diagnosis of acute appendicitis was based on clinical examination, and pregnancy was confirmed by ultrasound.The general surgeon performed the operation in the presence of an obstetrician who assessed all patients before and after the appendectomy. Neither urinary catheter insertion nor deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis was routinely performed. Antibiotics were administered postoperatively in complicated cases. All patients were operated in decubitus position and the appendix was accessed without difficulty through a McBurney's incision in all patients.

   Results Top

Details of the clinical cases are shown in [Table 1]. The mean age in the SCD group was 22.5 years; mean gravida and parity were 2.0 and 1.1, respectively. The mean HbS, HbF, and HbA2 values were 71.1, 26.2, and 2.6%, respectively. Two (18%), six (55%), and three (27%) patients were in their first, second, and third trimesters, respectively. Vomiting and abdominal pain in the right lower abdomen (distinct from sickle cell crisis pain) were the most common presenting symptoms regardless of the gestational age [Table 2].

Abdominal and rebound tenderness of the same site were the most common physical signs. Four (36%) patients developed pyrexia and seven (64%) patients had leukocytosis. The mean maximal temperature was 37.4C and the mean leukocyte count was 15.9 x 10 9 /l. Appendectomy was performed within 24 h of the onset of symptoms in all patients in the first trimester. Four out of six patients were operated within 24 h of the onset of symptoms in the second trimester while all patients in their third trimester had symptoms for >48 h. The mean operative time was 49 min (range: 35-125 min) and the length of postoperative hospital stay was 4.7 days (range: 2-8 days).

Acute appendicitis was confirmed histologically in six patients, appendicle perforation in two cases, and three patients had normal histological findings. Blood transfusion was required in six (55%) patients to correct anemia and also to prepare for surgery.Wound infection occurred in two (18%) cases, two patients developed crisis, and one (9%) patient developed pyelonephritis postoperatively. One patient in the first trimester had spontaneous abortion two days after the operation. Two patients in their third trimester had premature delivery in the immediate postoperative period. Three patients (27%) needed lower segment cesarean section (LSCS) and four patients (36%) needed assisted delivery. The mean birth weight of the babies was 2808.6 g; there was no maternal mortality.

   Discussion Top

Homozygous SCD is now known to be widespread and has broad clinical variability. A relatively mild manifestation of SCD (compared to the forms observed in other countries) has been noted in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. [8],[9],[10] High maternal and perinatal mortality rates clearly indicate the high level of risk associated with pregnancy in SCD patients mainly in the African and Afro-American population. [11],[12] Although recent data now suggests that appropriate medical care can help bring pregnancy to term safely in SCD patients. [12]

The reported incidence of appendicitis during pregnancy varies in the literature - from one in 705 to one in 2700 deliveries in the normal population. [13],[14] The incidence in our series was one in 1046 deliveries (out of a total of 67,990 deliveries in the study period), which is consistent with previous reports. To the best of our knowledge, there is no data available regarding the incidence of acute appendicitis and appendectomy in SCD patients during pregnancy. The clinical diagnosis of acute appendicitis in pregnancy is difficult. [15],[16],[17] In our study, 75% of the SCD patients reported pain in their right lower quadrant, the same as reported in other studies for pregnant nonsickler patients. [15]

Vomiting was a common complaint (67%) and it was comparable to other reports for pregnant nonsickler patients with acute appendicitis. [18] Fever was not very helpful in diagnosing acute appendicitis in pregnancy. [13] In our study, only 50% of the inflamed appendix patients had fever, while none of the sickler patients had pyrexia in the normal appendix group. Pregnancy is associated with physiological leukocytosis, which may be as high as 16,000/l. [18] Therefore, in the appropriate setting, the presence of leukocytosis >16,000/l in pregnant women may be an indicator of acute appendicitis. [19]

In our series, 75% of the acute appendicitis patients with SCD had leukocytosis >16,000/l. In agreement with the findings of other studies, we found a significant difference in the leukocyte counts in patients having acute appendicitis compared to those with noninflamed appendices. [20] As with nonsickler patients, delaying the appendectomy in SCD patients with appendicitis beyond 24 h in their third trimester was associated with gangrene and perforation of the appendix [Table 3]. [21],[22] Maternal mortality is rarely encountered in cases of acute appendicitis in pregnant nonsickler patients and there was none in our series as well. [15] The fetal loss and the rate of premature delivery were 9 and 18%, respectively, which is consistent with other reports. [13],[19]

The incidence of complication in SCD patients in the present study is lower than in other studies. [23] This may be because of the milder form of SCD in this area (Al-Hassa) due to the presence of high levels of HbF in the affected population. The high HbF levels protect against several clinical features associated with SCD, but the association between HbF levels and the severity of the disease process is complex. [2],[24] As in other studies, removal of the appendix from all patients was made easily through an incision over McBurney's Point. [25] Laparoscopic appendectomy has gradually gained universal agreement for the treatment of acute appendicitis; however, the controversy still exists over the safety and feasibility of a laparoscopic appendectomy during pregnancy. [26],[27]

   Conclusion Top

In this relatively small study, no single symptom, sign, or laboratory finding is diagnostic for acute appendicitis during pregnancy in SCD patients. Hence, acute appendicitis must be considered in the differential diagnosis when pregnant SCD women complain of new-onset abdominal pain.

   References Top

1.El-Hazmi MA, Warsy AS. Appraisal of sickle cell, and thalassemia genes in Saudi Arabia. East Medi Health J 1999;5:1147-53.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Al-Mulhim K. Pregnancy in sickle cell disease in the Al Hassa region of Saudi Arabia. Ann Saudi Med 2000;20:471-3.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Howard RJ, Tuck SM, Pearson TC. Pregnancy in sickle cell disease in the UK: Result of a multicentre survey of the effect of prophylactic blood transfusion on maternal and fetal outcome. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1995;102:947-51.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  
4.Tracey M, Fletcher HS. Appendicitis in pregnancy. Am Surg 2000;66:559-60.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Ueberrueck T, Koch A, Meyer L, Hinkel M, Gastinger I. Ninety-four appendectomy for suspected acute appendicitis during pregnancy. World J Surg 2004;28:508-11.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
6.Al-Mulhim A. Acute appendicitis in pregnancy. Int Surg 1996;81:295-7.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Melnick DM, Wahl WL, Dalton VK. Management of general surgical problem in the pregnant patient. Am J Surg 2004;187:170-80.  Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
8.Bailey K, Morris J, Serjant GR. Fetal hemoglobin and early manifestation of homozygous sickle cell disease. Arch Dis Child 1992;67:517-20.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Perrine RP, John P. Pregnancy in sickle cell anemia in a Caucasian group. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1974;118:29-33.  Back to cited text no. 9  [PUBMED]  
10.Padmos MA, Roberts GT, Sackey K, Kulozik A, Bail S, Morris JS, et al. Two different forms of homozygous sickle cell disease occur in Saudi Arabia. Br J Hematol 1991;79:93-8.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Milner PF, Jones BR, Dobler J. Outcome of pregnancy in sickle cell hemoglobin. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1980;138:239-45.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Rahimy MC, Gangbo A, Adjou R, Deguenon C, Goussanou S, Alihonou E. Effect of active prenatal management on pregnancy outcome in sickle cell disease in an African setting. Blood 2000;96:1685-9.  Back to cited text no. 12  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
13.Erylimaz R, Sahin M, Bas G, Alimoglu O, Kaya B. Acute appendicitis during pregnancy. Dig Surg 2002;19:40-4.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Borst AR. Acute appendicitis: Pregnancy complicates this diagnosis. JAAPA 2007;20:36-41.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Anderson B, Nielsen TF. Appendicitis in pregnancy: Diagnosis, management and complication. Acta Obstet Gynecol scand 1999;78:758-62.  Back to cited text no. 15    
16.Barloon TJ, Brown BP, Abu-Yosef MM, Warnock N, Berbaum KS. Sonography of acute appendicitis in pregnancy. Abdom Imaging 1995;20:149-51.  Back to cited text no. 16    
17.Ames CM, Shipp TD, Castro EE, Ouzounian J, Rao P. The use of helical computed tomography in pregnancy for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2001;184:954-7.  Back to cited text no. 17    
18.Brant HA. Acute appendicitis in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol 1967;29:130-8.  Back to cited text no. 18  [PUBMED]  
19.Horowitz MD, Gomez GA, Santieesteban R, Burkett G. Acute appendicitis during pregnancy. Arch Surg 1985;120:1362-7.  Back to cited text no. 19    
20.Hee P, Viktrup L. The diagnosis of appendicitis during pregnancy and maternal and fetal outcome after appendectomy. Int J Gynecol Obstet 1999;65:129-35.  Back to cited text no. 20    
21.Farquharson RG. Acute appendicitis in pregnancy. Scott Med J 1980;25:36-8.  Back to cited text no. 21  [PUBMED]  
22.Gomez A, Wood M. Acute appendicitis during pregnancy. Am J Surg 1979;137:180-3.  Back to cited text no. 22  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
23.Leborgne-Samuel Y, Janky E, Venditelli F, Salin J, Daijardin JB, Couchy B, et al. Sickle cell anemia and pregnancy: Review of 68 cases in Guadeloupe. J Gynecol Obstet Boil Rep 2000;29:86-93.  Back to cited text no. 23    
24.Maude GH, Hayes RJ, Serjeant GR. The haematology of steady state homozygous sickle cell disease: Interrelationships between haematological indices. Br J Haematol 1987;66:549-58.  Back to cited text no. 24  [PUBMED]  
25.Popkin CA, Lopez PP, Cohn SM, Brown M, Lynn M. The incision of choice for pregnant women with appendicitis is through McBurney's point. Am J Surg 2002;183:20-2.  Back to cited text no. 25  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
26.Bisharah M, Tulandi T. Laparoscopic surgery in pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2003;46:92-7.  Back to cited text no. 26  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
27.Wu JM, Chen KH, Lin HF, Tseng LM, Tseng SH, Huang SH. Laparoscopic appendectomy in pregnancy. Surg Laparosc Endosc Percutan Tech 2005;15:447-50.  Back to cited text no. 27    

Correspondence Address:
Abdulrahman S Al-Mulhim
Department of Surgery, Medical college - Alhasa, King Faisal University, P.O. Box 1164, Hofuf, Al-Hassa 31982
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1319-3767.41728

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