Background: The appropriate management of gallstones in patients undergoing renal transplantation is controversial. Screening for gallstones and subsequent prophylactic cholecystectomy has been recommended by some authors for kidney transplant candidates. Our program does not practice routine pretransplant screening for gallstones, and we reviewed our data to determine the outcome of our management approach.
Methods: We reviewed the records of the 1,364 currently followed patients who have undergone kidney transplant at our institution since 1985 in order to evaluate the morbidity and mortality of biliary disease in the post-transplant period. We attempted to contact all patients by telephone or mail survey for the presence of biliary tract disease or operations.
Results: Six hundred and sixty-two patients were fully evaluated. Fifty-two (7.85%) required cholecystectomy for stone disease. Seven patients underwent incidental cholecystectomy during other operations, 2 patients developed acalculus cholecystitis, and 14 patients with asymptomatic cholelithiasis are being followed up. Surgical indications included 38 biliary colic, 9 acute cholcystitis, 3 gallstone pancreatitis, and 2 patients who were asymptomatic. Fifty-two patients underwent 30 laparoscopic cholecystectomies, 20 open cholecystectomies, and 2 conversions. Surgery occurred from 7 days to 9.6 years following transplantation. Overall, the median hospital stay (no postoperative stay) was 4 days (range 1 to 57). Patients undergoing laparoscopy had a median stay of 2 days compared with 7 days for those undergoing an open procedure. Complications were seen in 6 patients (11.5%) with no morbidity and no graft loss. The 1-, 2-, and 5-year graft survival was 98%, 96%, and 85%, respectively, in patients undergoing cholecystectomy.
Conclusions: Transplant patients are not at an increased risk for developing biliary tract disease compared with nontransplant patients. Gallstone disease does not have a negative impact on graft survival. Treatment of gallstones has a low risk and does not represent an increased risk of complications in patients following renal transplantation.