Appendicitis is the most common childhood surgical emergency, but the diagnosis can be challenging, especially in children, often leading to either unnecessary surgery in children without appendicitis, or a ruptured appendix and serious complications when the condition is missed. Now, emergency medicine physicians and scientists at the Proteomics Center at Children's Hospital Boston demonstrate that a protein detectable in urine might serve as a "biomarker" for appendicitis. Their report was published online June 23 by the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Despite improvement in imaging technologies, recent figures indicate that 3 to 30 percent of children have unnecessary appendectomies, while 30 to 45 percent of those diagnosed with appendicitis already have a ruptured appendix. Laboratory biomarkers have been identified, but none have proved reliable enough to be clinically useful. Researchers led by Richard Bachur, MD, acting chief of emergency medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, Hanno Steen, PhD, director of the Proteomics Center, and clinical fellow Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD, decided to take a systematic approach, performing a proteomics study using state-of-the are mass spectrometry (a technique that detects and quantifies proteins in a sample). Their two-part study has identified the most accurate biomarker for acute appendicitis known to date.
In the first phase, they examined 12 urine specimens 6 from patients with appendicitis, taken before and after appendectomy, and 6 from patients without appendicitis and identified 32 candidate biomarkers, including many proteins associated with immune response and inflammation. To these 32 they added other candidates found through gene expression studies and other means, yielding a total of 57 potential biomarkers. They then sought to validate these markers in 67 children seen at the hospital for suspected appendicitis over an 18-month period, 25 of whom ultimately had proven appendicitis.
|Contact: James Newton|
Children's Hospital Boston