Two in three operations to remove a patient's appendix may be unnecessary, according to a new British study.
Doctors often wrongly believe that surgery is the only way to treat appendicitis -- an inflamed appendix -- but it can be treated simply by giving the patient antibiotics, researchers said.
In cases of uncomplicated appendicitis, where the organ has not become infected or perforated, antibiotics are actually better than surgery, the study, published in the British Medical Journal, said.
Only 20 percent of appendicitis cases need to be treated surgically, according to the researchers.
The team from the University of Nottingham, central England, studied 900 patients. Roughly half were given antibiotics and the other half were operated on.
There was a 63 percent success rate among those treated with antibiotics after one year and researchers said there was also a risk reduction of 31 percent among this group compared to the group who underwent surgery.
"The role of antibiotic treatment in acute uncomplicated appendicitis may have been overlooked mainly on the basis of tradition rather than evidence," the researchers said. "Antibiotics are both effective and safe as primary treatment for patients with uncomplicated acute appendicitis."