Background: Gallstones and alcohol account for more than 80% of acute pancreatitis. Cholecystectomy is the definitive treatment for gallstones. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the preferred route for performing cholecystectomy. The timing of laparoscopic cholecystectomy after an attack of acute biliary pancreatitis is controversial.
Objectives: To compare the benefits and harms of early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy in people with acute biliary pancreatitis. For mild acute pancreatitis, we considered 'early' laparoscopic cholecystectomy to be laparoscopic cholecystectomy performed within three days of onset of symptoms. We considered all laparoscopic cholecystectomies performed beyond three days of onset of symptoms as 'delayed'. For severe acute pancreatitis, we considered 'early' laparoscopic cholecystectomy as laparoscopic cholecystectomy performed within the index admission. We considered all laparoscopic cholecystectomies performed in a later admission as 'delayed'.
Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2012, issue 12), MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded, and trial registers until January 2013.
Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials, irrespective of language or publication status, comparing early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for people with acute biliary pancreatitis.
Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and independently extracted data. We planned to analyse data with both the fixed-effect and the random-effects models using Review Manager 5 (RevMan 2011). We calculated the risk ratio (RR), or mean difference (MD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) based on an intention-to-treat analysis.
Main results: We identified one trial comparing early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for people with mild acute pancreatitis. Fifty participants with mild acute gallstone pancreatitis were randomised either to early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (within 48 hours of admission irrespective of whether the abdominal symptoms were resolved or the laboratory values had returned to normal) (n = 25), or to delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy (surgery after resolution of abdominal pain and after the laboratory values had returned to normal) (n = 25). This trial is at high risk of bias. There was no short-term mortality in either group. There was no significant difference between the groups in the proportion of participants who developed serious adverse events (RR 0.33; 95% CI 0.01 to 7.81). Health-related quality of life was not reported in this trial. There were no conversions to open cholecystectomy in either group. The total hospital stay was significantly shorter in the early laparoscopic cholecystectomy group than in the delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy group (MD -2.30 days; 95% CI -4.40 to -0.20). This trial reported neither the number of work-days lost nor the costs. We did not identify any trials comparing early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy after severe acute pancreatitis.
Authors' conclusions: There is no evidence of increased risk of complications after early laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Early laparoscopic cholecystectomy may shorten the total hospital stay in people with mild acute pancreatitis. If appropriate facilities and expertise are available, early laparoscopic cholecystectomy appears preferable to delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy in those with mild acute pancreatitis. There is currently no evidence to support or refute early laparoscopic cholecystectomy for people with severe acute pancreatitis. Further randomised controlled trials at low risk of bias are necessary in people with mild acute pancreatitis and severe acute pancreatitis.