Background: This study addresses the impact of laparoscopic cholecystectomy prior to kidney or pancreas transplant.
Patients and methods: Between January 1991 and July 1993, 551 patients were listed for transplant. Gallbladder ultrasound became part of the standard evaluation for all transplant candidates in October 1991. Pretransplant laparoscopic cholecystectomy was recommended for all patients found to have gallstones. To assess the benefit of this policy, patients transplanted prior to routine ultrasound (Group I; n = 88) were compared to those listed or transplanted after routine ultrasound (Group II; n = 406).
Results: In Group I, 18% developed gallstone complications requiring surgery. Surgical morbidity occurred in 14% and mortality in 7% of these operations. Graft loss occurred in 20% having biliary complications versus 7% among other recipients. In Group II, gallstones were detected in 10%, and 9% subsequently had laparoscopic cholecystectomy with no morbidity or mortality.
Conclusions: Transplant recipients with unsuspected gallstones were found to have a high incidence of acute biliary complications. Urgent biliary surgery carried significant morbidity and mortality in these immunosuppressed patients and appeared to increase the risk of graft failure as well. A policy of screening gallbladder ultrasound and pretransplant laparoscopic cholecystectomy seems to reduce these concerns and is recommended for all transplant candidates.