Gallstone lithotripsy (LITHO) was performed on 52 patients who underwent 107 procedures. Two hundred sixty-seven gallstone patients were screened and 215 (81%) were excluded. Excessive stone burden and nonvisualization by oral cholecystogram (OCG) were the most common reasons for exclusion. The hospital course of 100 excluded patients who later underwent elective cholecystectomy was evaluated for length of hospital stay (2.3 days) and total cost of treatment (3685.00). Successful fragmentation to less than 5 mm was achieved in 43 LITHO patients (83%). Five LITHO patients (10%) required conversion to operative management. Complications of LITHO included acute cholecystitis (1 of 52 patients) and biliary colic (17 of 52 patients, or 33%). Multiple procedures in one patient were common. Costs for LITHO were calculated in two ways: first the individual cost for each of the 52 candidates; second the cost for successful LITHO was calculated by excluding five patients who required operation as well as five patients (10%) who are predicted failures of LITHO. Including the preoperative evaluation, treatment, recovery room, and follow-up, the individual LITHO cost for 52 patients was 8275.00. If the same total expenditure is calculated after excluding patients who required operation and those predicted to fail, the cost per 'successful' LITHO procedure was 10,245. The cost of 1 year of bile acid therapy is 1949.00 or 2413.00 per 'successful' procedure. Follow-up costs were $1232.00 per patient or $1525.00 per 'successful' procedure. The added LITHO cost incurred by screening eventual noncandidates was $904.00 per successful procedure. The sum of these individual costs was $15,087.00 per success, as compared to $3685.00 for cholecystectomy. No allowance was made for cost of stone recurrence. Lithotripsy costs appear to be sufficiently high to render the procedure unlikely to emerge as the treatment of choice.
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