Utility of Wearable Sensors to Assess Postoperative Recovery in Pediatric Patients After Appendectomy

Published:March 02, 2021DOI:



      Despite more than two million pediatric operations performed in the United States annually, normal postoperative recovery remains difficult to define. Wearable sensors that assess physical activity and vital signs in real time represent a tool to assess postoperative recovery. This study examined the use of a wearable, the FitBit Inspire HR, to describe recovery in children after appendectomy and to determine the sensitivity of wearable data to distinguish disease severity.

      Materials and methods

      Children 3-18 y old undergoing appendectomy in a tertiary children's hospital were invited to participate. Participants wore the FitBit Inpire HR after surgery for 21 d. t-tests compared daily step counts, and piecewise linear regression models were fit to examine recovery trajectories for patients with simple and complicated appendicitis.


      Thirty-two patients were enrolled, and 26 met eligibility criteria. Nine (35%) children had complicated appendicitis, and 14 (54%) were female; the mean age was 9.1 y (standard deviation: 2.9). Four hundred nineteen postoperative days were captured (range: 8-22 d; median: 16 d). Step counts increased after surgery; however, piecewise models showed that patients with simple appendicitis had a more rapid increase (P < 0.01) and reached a plateau (approximately 8000 steps/d) on postoperative day 9, whereas patients with complicated appendicitis did not reach a plateau and had lower step counts during the entire 21–postoperative day period (P < 0.01).


      Recovery in children after surgery can be characterized using wearables, which can also distinguish recovery trajectories based on disease severity. Establishing such “normative” recovery patterns may lead to earlier detection of complications.


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