A systematic review of the aetiology and management of post cholecystectomy syndrome

Surgeon. 2019 Feb;17(1):33-42. doi: 10.1016/j.surge.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 May 2.


Background: 10% of patients who undergo a cholecystectomy go on to develop post-cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS). The majority of these patients may suffer from extra-biliary or unrelated organic disorders that may have been present before cholecystectomy. The numerous aetiological causes of PCS result in a wide spectrum of management options, each with varying success in abating symptoms. This systematic review aims to provide a summary of the causative aetiologies of post cholecystectomy syndrome, their incidences and efficacy of available management options.

Methods: The Medline, Embase and Cochrane databases were searched for studies patients who developed PCS symptoms following laparoscopic cholecystectomy, published between 1990 and 2016. The aetiology, incidence and management options were extracted, with separate collation of randomised control trials and non-randomised studies that reported intervention. Outcomes included recurrent symptoms following intervention, unscheduled primary and secondary care attendances and complications.

Results: Twenty-one studies were included (15 case series, 2 cohort studies, 1 case control, 3 RCTs). Five studies described medical treatment (nifedipine, cisapride, opiates); seven studies described endoscopic or surgical intervention. Early presentation of PCS (<3 years post-cholecystectomy) was more likely to be gastric in origin, and later presentations were found to be more likely due to retained stones. Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD) accounted for a third of cases in an unselected population with PCS.

Conclusions: Causes of post cholecystectomy syndrome are varied and many can be attributed to extra-biliary causes, which may be present prior to surgery. Early symptoms may warrant early upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Delayed presentations are more likely to be associated with retained biliary stones. A large proportion of patients will have no cause identified. Treatment options for this latter group are limited.

Keywords: Aetiology; Cause; Differential diagnosis; Management; Post-cholecystectomy syndrome.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Postcholecystectomy Syndrome / etiology*
  • Postcholecystectomy Syndrome / therapy*