Acute cholecystitis is a common disease which may carry the risk of complications, including empyema, perforation, abscess, peritonitis and sepsis. Percutaneous transhepatic drainage of the gallbladder (PTGBD) with antibiotics can provide prompt decompression of gallbladder in acute cholecystitis and interrupt the natural history of the disease effectively. From July 1986 to June 1996, 154 patients with acute cholecystitis were reviewed retrospectively in Kaohsiung Medical College Hospital. The chief symptoms and signs were pain (98.1%), fever (57.1%) and jaundice (37.7%). WBC count more than 10,000 was noted in 116 (75.3%) patients. Associated diseases included empyema: 42 (27.3%), septic shock: 14 (9.1%), diabetes mellitus: 13 (8.4%), pancreatitis: 10 (6.5%), perforation: 7 (4.5%), liver cirrhosis: 6 (3.9%) and respiratory failure: 1 (0.6%). All of them underwent ultrasound-guided PTGBD immediately after the diagnosis was established. The symptoms and signs disappeared soon after this procedure. Bacterial culture was found positive in 104 (67.5%) of 154 patients in which Escherichia coli (51.9%) was the most common organism, followed by Klebsiella pneumonia (20.2%). After acute stage, 138 patients obtained the cholangiography via PTGBD tube. Gallbladder stones were only noted in 56 (40.6%) patients, gallbladder stone concomitant with common bile duct stone in 26 (18.8%), cystic duct obstruction in 25 (18.1%), acalculous cholecystitis in 21 (15.2%), gallbladder perforation in 1 (0.7%), choledochocyst in 1 (0.7%), and cholecystocolonic fistula in 1 (0.7%). There were 135 patients to undergo surgery after the clinical condition was stable. The operative findings included gallbladder stones only in 88 (65.2%), gallbladder stone concomitant with common bile duct stone in 34 (25.2%), acalculous cholecystitis in 13 (9.6%), choledochocyst in 1 (0.7%), and cholecysto-colonic fistula in 1 (0.7%). The postoperative complications included wound infection 8 (5.9%), UGI bleeding 3 (2.2%), acute renal failure 1 (0.7%) and acute respiratory failure 1 (0.7%). The postoperative mortality rate was 0.7% (1/135), which was much lower than those of previous reports, which not undergoing PTGBD initially. It led us to conclude that PTGBD, as an initial preoperative modality to treat acute cholecystitis, is effective in decreasing postoperative morbidity and mortality.