Subtotal cholecystectomy for "difficult gallbladders": systematic review and meta-analysis

JAMA Surg. 2015 Feb;150(2):159-68. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2014.1219.


Importance: Subtotal cholecystectomy (SC) is a procedure that removes portions of the gallbladder when structures of the Calot triangle cannot be safely identified in "difficult gallbladders."

Objective: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate current studies and present an evidence-based assessment of the outcomes for the techniques available for SC.

Data sources: A literature search of the PubMed/MEDLINE (1954 to November 2013) and EMBASE (1974 to November 2013) databases was conducted. Search criteria included the words subtotal, partial, insufficient or incomplete, and cholecystectomy.

Study selection: Inclusion criteria were all randomized, nonrandomized, and retrospective studies with data on SC techniques and outcomes. Exclusion criteria were studies that reported data on SC along with other interventions (eg, cholecystostomy) without the possibility to discriminate results specific to SC.

Data extraction and synthesis: This systematic review was performed using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome of the study was the occurrence of common bild duct injury. Secondary outcomes included the occurrence of other SC-related morbidities, such as hemorrhage, subhepatic collection, bile leak, retained stones, postoperative endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, wound infection, reoperation, and mortality.

Results: Thirty articles were included. Subtotal cholecystectomy was typically performed using the laparoscopic technique (72.9%), followed by the open (19.0%) and laparoscopic converted to open (8.0%) techniques. The most common indications were severe cholecystitis (72.1%), followed by cholelithiasis in liver cirrhosis and portal hypertension (18.2%) and empyema or perforated gallbladder (6.1%). Morbidity rates were relatively low (postoperative hemorrhage, 0.3%; subhepatic collections, 2.9%; bile duct injury, 0.08%; and retained stones, 3.1%); the rate for bile leaks was higher (18.0%). Reoperations were necessary in 1.8% of the cases; the 30-day mortality rate was 0.4%. The laparoscopic approach produced less risk of subhepatic collection (odds ratio [OR], 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.9), retained stones (OR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.3-0.9), wound infection (OR, 0.07; 95% CI, 0.04-0.2), reoperation (OR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.3-0.9), and mortality (OR, 0.2; 95% CI, 0.05-0.9) but more bile leaks (OR, 5.3; 95% CI, 3.9-7.2) compared with the open approach.

Conclusions and relevance: Subtotal cholecystectomy is an important tool for use in difficult gallbladders and achieves morbidity rates comparable to those reported for total cholecystectomy in simple cases. The various technical differences appear to influence outcomes only for the laparoscopic approach.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholecystectomy / adverse effects
  • Cholecystectomy / methods*
  • Gallbladder Diseases / complications
  • Gallbladder Diseases / pathology
  • Gallbladder Diseases / surgery*
  • Humans