Timing of cholecystectomy for acute calculous cholecystitis: a meta-analysis

Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Jan;99(1):147-55. doi: 10.1046/j.1572-0241.2003.04002.x.


Objectives: To compare early with delayed cholecystectomy for the treatment of acute lithiasic cholecystitis: a meta-analysis of prospective randomized trials.

Methods: Pertinent studies were selected from the Medline, Embase, Cancerlit, HealthSTAR and Cochrane Library Databases, references from published articles, and reviews. Twelve prospective randomized trials (9 addressing open cholecystectomy and 3 laparoscopic cholecystectomy) were selected. Conventional meta-analysis according to the DerSimonian and Laird method was used for the pooling of the results. The rate difference (RD) (95% CI) and the number needed to treat (NNT) were used as a measure of the therapeutic effect.

Results: Cumulative operative and perioperative mortality and morbidity were 0.9% and 17.8%, respectively, for open cholecystectomy and 0% and 13.1%, respectively, for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The pooled RD for operative complications in early surgery was 1.37% (95% CI =-3.78% to 6.53%; p= 0.2) for open cholecystectomy and 3.11% (95% CI =-15.10% to 8.87%; p= 0.6) for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In laparoscopic cholecystectomy the cumulative conversion rate to open cholecystectomy was 21.5%. The pooled RD for conversion rate in early laparoscopic cholecystectomy was -7.99% (95% CI =-18.46% to 2.47%; p= 0.1; NNT = 13). Total hospital stay (mean +/- SD) was significantly shorter in the early surgery group (9.6 +/- 2.5 days vs 17.8 +/- 5.8 days; p < 0.0001). More than 20% of patients referred to delayed surgery fail to respond to conservative management or suffer recurrent cholecystitis in the interval period.

Conclusions: Early operation (open or laparoscopic) does not carry a higher risk of mortality and morbidity compared to delayed operation and should be the preferred surgical approach for patients with acute lithiasic cholecystitis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Cholecystectomy*
  • Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic
  • Cholecystitis / complications
  • Cholecystitis / surgery*
  • Cholelithiasis / complications
  • Cholelithiasis / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Time Factors