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CHICAGO, Ill. (CBS Local) — The days of routinely treating acute appendicitis as a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery may be over.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says a simple course of antibiotics can be just as effective as surgery.

That’s a significant change in thinking about how to treat an inflamed appendix. For decades, appendicitis has been treated as a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery because of fears the appendix could burst, which can be life-threatening.

However, the study suggests that nearly two-thirds of appendicitis patients don’t face that risk and can be treated with antibiotics instead.

“It’s a feasible, viable and a safe option,” said Dr. Paulina Salminen, the study’s lead author and a surgeon at Turku University Hospital in Finland.

Five years after treatment with antibiotics, almost two-thirds of patients hadn’t had another attack.

Appendix removal is the most common emergency surgery worldwide, with an estimated 300,000 operations performed each year in the U.S. More than five percent of the population, mostly people in their teens and 20s, develop appendicitis at some point in their life.