Hypothesis: Early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) results in a shorter length of stay and acceptable conversion and complication rates when compared with antibiotic therapy plus interval LC or percutaneous cholecystostomy in patients admitted to a surgical service because of acute cholecystitis. However, actual practice does not conform to current evidence.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Urban teaching hospital.
Methods: Data were abstracted from the medical records of all patients with acute cholecystitis admitted to the surgical service via the emergency department during 36 months (October 1, 2002, to September 30, 2005). Patients were divided into 5 groups on the basis of treatment received. Length of stay, duration of symptoms, major complications, and conversion rates were analyzed.
Results: Of 173 patients with acute cholecystitis, 71 (41%) underwent early LC. Of 102 patients treated with antibiotic therapy alone (59%), 57 were discharged; antibiotic therapy was unsuccessful in 45 patients. Of the patients in whom antibiotic therapy was unsuccessful, 26 underwent late LC and 19 underwent percutaneous cholecystostomy. Interval LC was eventually performed in 55 patients who did not undergo surgery during the index admission. Length of stay was significantly shorter in the early LC group compared with the interval LC group (P < .001). Conversion rates were not statistically different for the 3 LC groups (early LC, 5.6%; late LC, 11.5%; and interval LC, 9.1%). The only biliary complication occurred in the interval LC group.
Conclusions: Early laparoscopic cholecystectomy resulted in a significantly reduced length of stay, no major complications, and no significant difference in conversion rates when compared with initial antibiotic treatment and interval LC. Despite these advantages, early LC is not the most common treatment for acute cholecystitis in practice.