Objective: To compare clinical outcomes after laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) for acute cholecystitis performed at various time-points after hospital admission.
Background: Symptomatic gallstones represent an important public health problem with LC the treatment of choice. LC is increasingly offered for acute cholecystitis, however, the optimal time-point for LC in this setting remains a matter of debate.
Methods: Analysis was based on the prospective database of the Swiss Association of Laparoscopic and Thoracoscopic Surgery and included patients undergoing emergency LC for acute cholecystitis between 1995 and 2006, grouped according to the time-points of LC since hospital admission (admission day (d0), d1, d2, d3, d4/5, d ≥6). Linear and generalized linear regression models assessed the effect of timing of LC on intra- or postoperative complications, conversion and reoperation rates and length of postoperative hospital stay.
Results: Of 4113 patients, 52.8% were female, median age was 59.8 years. Delaying LC resulted in significantly higher conversion rates (from 11.9% at d0 to 27.9% at d ≥6 days after admission, P < 0.001), surgical postoperative complications (5.7% to 13%, P < 0.001) and re-operation rates (0.9% to 3%, P = 0.007), with a significantly longer postoperative hospital stay (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Delaying LC for acute cholecystitis has no advantages, resulting in significantly increased conversion/re-operation rate, postoperative complications and longer postoperative hospital stay. This investigation—one of the largest in the literature—provides compelling evidence that acute cholecystitis merits surgery within 48 hours of hospital admission if impact on the patient and health care system is to be minimized.