Background: Early laparoscopic cholecystectomy has been advocated for the management of acute cholecystitis, but little evidence exists to support the superiority of this approach over delayed-interval operation. The current systematic review was undertaken to compare the outcomes and efficacy between early and delayed-interval laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis in an evidence-based approach using metaanalytical techniques.
Methods: A search of electronic databases, including MEDLINE and EMBASE, was conducted to identify relevant articles published between January 1988 and June 2004. Only randomized or quasi-randomized prospective clinical trials in the English language comparing the outcomes of early and delayed-interval laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis were recruited. Both qualitative and quantitative statistical analyses were performed. The effect size of outcome parameters was estimated by odds ratio or weighted mean difference where feasible and appropriate.
Results: A total of four clinical trials comprising 504 patients met the inclusion criteria. Failure of conservative treatment requiring emergency cholecystectomy occurred for 43 patients (23%) in the delayed group. Metaanalyses demonstrated a significantly shortened total length of hospital stay in the early group (weighted mean difference, -1.12; 95% confidence interval [CI], -1.42 to -0.99; p < 0.001). Pooled estimates did not show any significant differences between the two approaches in terms of operation time, conversion rate, overall complication rate, incidence of bile leakage, and intraabdominal collection.
Conclusions: The safety and efficacy of early and delayed-interval laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis were comparable. Because evidence suggested that early laparoscopic cholecystectomy reduced the total length of hospital stay and the risk of readmissions attributable to recurrent acute cholecystitis, it is therefore a more cost-effective approach for the management of acute cholecystitis.