Background and methods: The Southern Surgeons Club conducted a prospective study of 1518 patients who underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy for treatment of gallbladder disease in order to evaluate the safety of this procedure.
Results: Seven hundred fifty-eight operations (49.9 percent) were performed at academic hospitals, and 760 (50.1 percent) at private hospitals. In 72 patients (4.7 percent) the operation was converted to conventional open cholecystectomy; the most common reason for the change was the inability to identify the anatomy of the gallbladder as a result of inflammation in the region of this organ. A total of 82 complications occurred in 78 (5.1 percent) of the patients; this is comparable with the rates of 6 to 21 percent that have been reported for conventional cholecystectomy. Overall, the most common complication was superficial infection of the site of insertion of the umbilical trocar. A total of seven injuries to the common bile duct or the hepatic duct occurred during the operation, for a rate of 0.5 percent. Four of the seven injuries were simple lacerations, which were repaired after conversion to conventional cholecystectomy. The incidence of bile-duct injury in the first 13 patients operated on by each surgical group was 2.2 percent, as compared with 0.1 percent for subsequent patients. No complications were attributed directly to either cautery or laser-surgical technique, and similar numbers of complications occurred in academic and private hospitals. The mean hospital stay for the entire group was 1.2 days (range, 6 hours to 30 days).
Conclusions: The results of laparoscopic cholecystectomy compare favorably with those of conventional cholecystectomy with respect to mortality, complications, and length of hospital stay. A slightly higher incidence of biliary injury with the laparoscopic procedure is probably offset by the low incidence of other complications.