Acute cholecystitis is an often unrecognized and potentially life-threatening complication seen among ICU patients with multiple injury. To investigate the epidemiology of this entity and to evaluate significant etiologic precursors, a prospective clinical and sonographic study was performed in 45 consecutive patients (mean age, 29 years) treated for multiple trauma (mean ISS, 27) in the ICU. Eight of 45 patients developed a cholecystitis during intensive care treatment (18%). Six patients recovered with conservative therapy; in two instances a cholecystectomy was necessary. There was no mortality as a result of cholecystitis. A significant relationship between the severity of the initial trauma (p< 0.05), the number of blood transfusions (p< 0.01), and the incidence of acute cholecystitis was found. Other factors such as prolonged shock, respiratory failure, or parenteral alimentation were less prevalent and were not temporally related to the onset of the disease. All patients had large amounts of narcotics administered over a prolonged period, so that narcotic-induced biliary stasis appeared to be another eminent factor involved in the genesis of posttraumatic cholecystitis. Our results lead to the conclusion that acute cholecystitis occurs with an unexpectedly high incidence and that a high remission rate can be expected following conservative treatment provided that appropriate serial ultrasound examinations are performed.
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