Elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy is established as the treatment of choice for symptomatic cholecystolithiasis and is now proposed for the treatment of acute cholecystitis. We initiated the present study in order to clarify the question of safety of the procedure in the presence of an inflamed gallbladder, and to compare the results with those of a traditionally treated group with acute cholecystitis. We compared the preoperative, operative, and postoperative courses of 146 patients with acute cholecystitis, managed laparoscopically between 1994 and 1996, with those of 97 patients, treated traditionally by open cholecystectomy for the same diagnosis between 1992 and 1993. In the acute cholecystitis cases, when laparoscopic cholecystectomy was successfully performed, the operative and postoperative courses were superior to those of open cholecystectomy. The use of drains and NG tubes, the need for antibiotics and analgesia, the associated morbidity, and the hospital stay were significantly reduced. Following conversion, the postoperative course was similar to that of open cholecystectomy. Of the group of acute cholecystitis cases laparoscopically approached 39 (27%) needed conversion. Twenty-five complications occurred in 24 (16.5%) patients of the laparoscopic group, whereas 30 complications occurred in 25 (26%) patients of the traditionally operated group. Male sex, older patients, and larger bile stones were found to be associated with a higher conversion rate as well as a higher complication rate. A nonpalpable gallbladder and gangrenous cholecystitis were associated with conversion while fever was associated with complications. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy can be performed safely in selected cases of acute cholecystitis, with acceptable conversion and low complication rates. When laparoscopic cholecystectomy is successfully performed, the operative and postoperative courses are superior to those of open cholecystectomy. Following conversion, the postoperative course is similar to that of open cholecystectomy. According to this study, male sex, older age, large bile stones, a nonpalpable gallbladder, and gangrenous cholecystitis may be regarded as predictors of conversion, while male sex, older age, large bile stones, and fever may be regarded as predictors of complications. The timing of laparoscopic cholecystectomy should be within 96 h from onset of the inflammation.
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