Laparoscopic appendectomy is amongst the most common general surgical procedures performed in the developed world. Arguably, the most critical part of this procedure is effective closure of the appendix stump to prevent catastrophic intra-abdominal complications from a faecal leak into the abdominal cavity. A variety of methods to close the appendix stump are used worldwide; these can be broadly divided into traditional ligatures (such as intracorporeal or extracorporeal ligatures or Roeder loops) and mechanical devices (such as stapling devices, clips, or electrothermal devices). However, the optimal method remains unclear.
To compare all surgical techniques now used for appendix stump closure during laparoscopic appendectomy.
In June 2017, we searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2017, Issue 6) in the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE Ovid (1946 to 14 June 2017), Embase Ovid (1974 to 14 June 2017), Science Citation Index - Expanded (14 June 2017), China Biological Medicine Database (CBM), the World Health Organization International Trials Registry Platform search portal, ClinicalTrials.gov, Current Controlled Trials, the Chinese Clinical Trials Register, and the EU Clinical Trials Register (all in June 2017). We searched the reference lists of relevant publications as well as meeting abstracts and Conference Proceedings Citation Index to look for additional relevant clinical trials.
We included all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared mechanical appendix stump closure (stapler, clips, or electrothermal devices) versus ligation (Endoloop, Roeder loop, or intracorporeal knot techniques) for uncomplicated appendicitis.
Two review authors identified trials for inclusion, collected data, and assessed risk of bias independently. We performed the meta-analysis using Review Manager 5. We calculated the odds ratio (OR) for dichotomous outcomes and the mean difference (MD) for continuous outcomes, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
We included eight randomised studies encompassing 850 participants. Five studies compared titanium clips versus ligature, two studies compared an endoscopic stapler device versus ligature, and one study compared an endoscopic stapler device, titanium clips, and ligature. In our analyses of primary outcomes, we found no differences in total complications (OR 0.97, 95% CI 0.27 to 3.50, 8 RCTs, very low-quality evidence), intraoperative complications (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.34 to 2.55, 8 RCTs, very low-quality evidence), or postoperative complications (OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.21 to 3.13, 8 RCTs, very low-quality evidence) between ligature and all types of mechanical devices. However, our analyses of secondary outcomes revealed that use of mechanical devices saved approximately nine minutes of total operating time when compared with use of a ligature (mean difference (MD) -9.04 minutes, 95% CI -12.97 to -5.11 minutes, 8 RCTs, very low-quality evidence). However, this finding did not translate into a clinically or statistically significant reduction in inpatient hospital stay (MD 0.02 days, 95% CI -0.12 to 0.17 days, 8 RCTs, very low-quality evidence). Available information was insufficient for reliable comparison of total hospital costs and postoperative pain/quality of life between the two approaches. Overall, evidence across all analyses was of very low quality, with substantial potential for confounding factors. Given the limitations of all studies in terms of bias and the low quality of available evidence, a clear conclusion regarding superiority of any one particular type of mechanical device over another is not possible.
Evidence is insufficient at present to advocate omission of conventional ligature-based appendix stump closure in favour of any single type of mechanical device over another in uncomplicated appendicitis.