Bile duct injury during laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a prospective nationwide series

J Am Coll Surg. 1997 Jun;184(6):571-8.


Background: The risk of bile duct injury in laparoscopic cholecystectomy has been a concern since the procedure became part of the surgical armamentarium. Our study assesses the incidence, types, and treatment for laparoscopic bile duct injury.

Study design: Prospective case registration in a national database with participation by all departments of surgery performing laparoscopic cholecystectomy in Denmark since the first operation in January 1991. The case notes for bile duct injury have been reviewed.

Results: From 1991 through 1994, 57 of 7,654 patients sustained bile duct injury (0.74 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.55 percent to 0.94 percent), including nine injuries occurring after conversion. The annual incidence did not decrease. Thirty-nine percent of the laparoscopic bile duct injuries were incisions, 39 percent were transections, and 12 percent were clip injuries or strictures. One patient, who sustained transection during open reoperation for bleeding after a converted procedure, died. Bile leaks for reasons other than bile duct injury occurred in 2.1 percent; 71 percent of these were cystic duct leaks. Acute cholecystitis was the indication for laparoscopic cholecystectomy in 968 patients, with 1.3 percent sustaining laparoscopic bile duct injury (95 percent confidence interval, 0.62 percent to 2.08 percent), while the incidence in patients with other indications for laparoscopic cholecystectomy was 0.62 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 0.44 percent to 0.82 percent) (p > 0.05). Preoperative knowledge of bile duct anatomy was available by means of preoperative endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or intravenous cholangiography in 26 percent of patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy but this did not reduce the risk of bile duct injury. The frequency of bile duct injury in patients who had intraoperative cholangiography was not significantly different from those who did not. Intraoperative cholangiography was done in 14 cases of injury (diagnostic for injury in 8, misinterpreted in 2, and normal in 4 patients). The case notes described operative difficulties in 11 of 48 cases of laparoscopic bile duct injury, most often because of fibrosis or difficulty delineating the anatomy.

Conclusions: The incidence of bile duct injury in laparoscopic cholecystectomy is higher than previously generally anticipated and did not decrease from 1991 through 1994. Risk factors and possible preventive measures should be evaluated in prospective studies.

MeSH terms

  • Bile Ducts / injuries*
  • Cholangiography
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde
  • Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic / adverse effects*
  • Cholecystitis / surgery
  • Denmark
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications*
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies