Objective: The aim of this study was to prospectively assess the results of laparoscopic cholecystectomy in patients with acute inflammation of the gallbladder.
Summary background data: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy has become the standard treatment for symptomatic gallbladder disease. Its role in the surgical treatment of acute cholecystitis has not been defined, although a number of recent reports suggest that there should be few contraindications to an initial laparoscopic approach.
Methods: All patients presenting with symptomatic cholelithiasis from October 1990 until June 1992 were evaluated at laparoscopy with intention of proceeding to a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The gross appearance of the gallbladder was categorized as acute inflammation, chronic inflammation, or no inflammation. Ninety-eight (23.4%) of 418 patients had acute inflammation of the gallbladder: 55 were edematous, 10 were gangrenous, 15 had a mucocele, and 18 had an empyema.
Results: The authors assessed outcome in these patients. The frequency of conversion to an open operation was 33.7% for acute inflammation, 21.7% for chronic inflammation (p < 0.05), and 4% for no inflammation (p < 0.001). The conversion rate was highest for empyema (83.3%) and gangrenous cholecystitis (50%), while the conversion rate for edematous cholecystitis was 21.8% and for acute inflammation with a mucocele it was 7%. The median operation time for successful laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute inflammation was 105 minutes, which was longer than that with no inflammation (90 minutes). However, the incidence of complications was not different from that for chronic or no inflammation. The median postoperative stay for patients with acute gallbladder inflammation was 2 days for successful laparoscopic cholecystectomy and 7 days for patients converted to an open operation.
Conclusions: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute inflammation of the gallbladder is safe and is associated with a significantly shorter postoperative stay compared to open surgery. A greater number of patients required conversion to open operation compared to those with no obvious inflammation. Conversion to open operation was most frequent for empyema and gangrenous cholecystitis, suggesting that once this diagnosis is made, excessive time should not be spent in laparoscopic trial dissection before converting to an open operation.