Leading article: Reasons to mourn the demise of the appendectomy

Spare a thought for the trainee surgeons. For decades, the removal of a patient's appendix has been the standard operation with which novices begin their careers in general surgery. Common, straightforward, and comfortingly low-risk, the appendectomy had everything going for it.

Only now it appears that the popularity of the procedure may have been as much to do with medical fashion as clinical need. And, as with the tonsillectomy or the vagotomy before it, the appendectomy's star may be about to wane.

That almost two-thirds of inflamed appendices can be cured with a dose of over-the-counter antibiotics, rather than the scalpel, is nothing but good news for the 50,000-odd people who suffer from appendicitis each year.

But it does leave legions of junior doctors searching for an alternative complaint upon which to test their skills for the first time. Hernias, perhaps?