Devastating and fatal complications associated with combined vascular and bile duct injuries during cholecystectomy

Arch Surg. 2002 Jun;137(6):703-8; discussion 708-10. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.137.6.703.


Hypothesis: Multiple centers have reported on bile duct injuries after cholecystectomy, but few have reported on the impact of concomitant vascular injuries.

Design: Twenty-seven life-threatening complex injuries (CIs) (Bismuth level III, IV, or V or combined arterial-ductal injuries) were retrospectively compared with 22 noncomplex injuries (NCs) (level I or II).

Setting: Tertiary referral center.

Main outcome measures: The incidence and level of biliary and arterial injuries and their resulting morbidity and mortality.

Results: Bismuth classifications of all injuries were as follows: level I in 6 patients (12%), II in 19 (39%), III in 12 (24%), IV in 8 (16%), and V in 4 (8%). Diagnosis was based on peritonitis (n = 13 [27%]), endoscopic retrograde pancreatography (n = 19 [39%]), and percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (n = 7 [14%]). Delayed referral was more common in levels I through IV (100 days) than in level V (15 days) (P<.001). Repairs were attempted in level IV (75%), III (67%), V (25%), and II (11%). Thirteen arterial injuries (26%) occurred irrespective of ductal injury level: I (n = 1), II (n = 3), III (n = 1), IV (n = 5), and V (n = 3). There was, however, a higher incidence of repairs before referral in the CI group (59% vs 5%; P<.01), with resulting higher rates of complication (70% vs 23%; P<.01). Five deaths occurred in the CI group vs 1 in the NC group (P =.14). In univariate analysis, the presence of arterial injury vs no arterial injury was a predictor of mortality (5 [38%] of 13 patients vs 1 [3%] of 36 patients; P<.001).

Conclusion: Bile duct injuries after cholecystectomy can be morbid and lethal with the incidence of arterial injury grossly underestimated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bile Ducts / injuries*
  • Cholecystectomy / adverse effects*
  • Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hepatic Artery / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease
  • Intraoperative Complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies