Expansion of laparoscopic cholecystectomy in a resource limited setting, Mongolia: a 9-year cross-sectional retrospective review

Lancet. 2015 Apr 27;385 Suppl 2:S38. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60833-9. Epub 2015 Apr 26.


Background: The benefits of laparoscopic cholecystectomy have been largely unavailable to most people in developing countries. Mongolia has an extremely high incidence of gallbladder disease. In 2005, only 2% of cholecystectomies were being done laparoscopically. Open cholecystectomies were associated with high rates of wound infections, complications, and increased recovery time. Because of the unacceptable complications associated with open cholecystectomies, and nearly 50% of the nomadic population needing faster post-operative recovery times, a national project for the development of laparoscopic surgery was organised. Multi-institutional collaboration between the Mongolia Health Sciences University, the Dr W C Swanson Family Foundation (SFF), the University of Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, and the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) led to the promulgation of a formalised countrywide laparoscopic training programme during the past 9 years. This is a retrospective review of the transition from open to laparoscopic cholecystectomy throughout Mongolia.

Methods: Demographic patient data, diagnosis, and operation preformed-laparoscopic versus open cholecystectomy, between January, 2005, and September, 2013, were collected and trends were analysed from seven regional diagnostic referral and treatment centres, and two tertiary academic medical centres from six of the 21 provinces (Aimags) throughout Mongolia. Data were analysed by individual training centre, by year, and then compared between rural and urban centres.

Findings: Nearly 16 000 cholecystectomies were analysed and compared (4417 [28·2%] men; 11 244 [71·8%] women). Men and women underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy with the same frequency (41·2% men, 43·2% women) and had similar age (men, mean 52·2 years [SD 14·8]; women, mean 49·4 years [SD 15·7]). By 2013, 62% of gallbladders were removed laparoscopically countrywide as opposed to only 2% in 2005. More than 315 Mongolian practitioners have received laparoscopic training in 19 of 21 Aimags. On average 60% of cholecystectomies are done laparoscopically in urban surgical centres, up from 2%, versus 55% in rural surgical centres, up from 0%, in 2005. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy surpassed open cholecystectomy as the primary method for gallbladder removal countrywide in 2011.

Interpretation: By 2013, 62% of cholecystectomies countrywide were done laparoscopically, a great increase from 9 years ago. Despite being a resource limited country, the expansion of laparoscopic cholecystectomy has transformed the care of biliary tract disease in Mongolia.

Funding: The University of Utah Center for Global Surgery.