Objective: A prospective randomized study was undertaken to compare early with delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis.
Summary background data: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis is associated with high complication and conversion rates. It is not known whether there is a role for initial conservative treatment followed by interval elective operation.
Method: During a 26-month period, 99 patients with a clinical diagnosis of acute cholecystitis were randomly assigned to early laparoscopic cholecystectomy within 72 hours of admission (early group, n = 49) or delayed interval surgery after initial medical treatment (delayed group, n = 50). Thirteen patients (four in the early group and nine in the delayed group) were excluded because of refusal of operation (n = 6), misdiagnosis (n = 5), contraindication for surgery (n = 1), or loss to follow-up (n = 1).
Results: Eight of 41 patients in the delayed group underwent urgent operation at a median of 63 hours (range, 32 to 140 hours) after admission because of spreading peritonitis (n = 3) and persistent fever (n = 5). Although the delayed group required less frequent modifications in operative technique and a shorter operative time, there was a tendency toward a higher conversion rate (23% vs. 11%; p = 0.174) and complication rate (29% vs. 13%; p = 0.07). For 38 patients with symptoms exceeding 72 hours before admission, the conversion rate remained high after delayed surgery (30% vs. 17%; p = 0.454). In addition, delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy prolonged the total hospital stay (11 days vs. 6 days; p < 0.001) and recuperation period (19 days vs. 12 days; p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Initial conservative treatment followed by delayed interval surgery cannot reduce the morbidity and conversion rate of laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis. Early operation within 72 hours of admission has both medical and socioeconomic benefits and is the preferred approach for patients managed by surgeons with adequate experience in laparoscopic cholecystectomy.