Background. Many aspects of the management of perforated appendicitis in children remain controversial. The objective of this study was to define risk factors associated with the development of postoperative complications in children undergoing treatment for perforated appendicitis. Methods. We reviewed all children (age < 16 years) who were treated for perforated appendicitis at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital between 1988 and 1997. Inclusion criteria included either gross or microscopic evidence of appendiceal perforation. Results. Of 285 children with perforated appendicitis, 279 underwent immediate operative treatment. Mean patient age was 7. 7 years and there were no deaths. Major postoperative complications included intra-abdominal abscess (n = 17), ileus (n = 7), mechanical intestinal obstruction (n = 6), and wound infection (n = 4). All children who had a postoperative abscess had more than 5 days of symptoms before operation. Within this subgroup, drain placement was associated with not only decreased postoperative abscess formation and but also shorter duration of fever and length of hospitalization. The incidence of mechanical obstruction or ileus was not increased and the rate of wound infection was actually lower after drainage. Conclusions. Drain placement appears to be helpful in children with late diagnosis but is of little benefit when the duration of symptoms is less than 5 days. Thus it is likely that drains are most useful in patients with well-established and localized abscess cavities.