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J Am Coll Surg. 1995 Feb;180(2):136-45.

The outcomes of elective laparoscopic and open cholecystectomies.

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  • 1University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Minneapolis 55455.



The demand for evidence of effectiveness for medical care has prompted the development of epidemiologic approaches to relating the outcomes of care to treatment. This study compares the outcomes of care for patients undergoing the newly introduced laparoscopic cholecystectomy with the results from conventional open cholecystectomies.


Consecutive cases of elective cholecystectomy from 35 hospitals (all of the metropolitan and selected rural hospitals in Minnesota) were enrolled in the study. Patients were interviewed on admission to establish baseline symptoms and functional status and to confirm risk factors. Their medical records were abstracted to yield information on risk factors, treatment, and hospital complications. To establish outcomes, patients were sent a questionnaire about their symptoms and functional status six months postoperatively.


Of 3,448 patients studied, 2,490 (72 percent) had a laparoscopic procedure, including 195 cases that were converted to open cholecystectomies. Functional status data were obtained on 2,481 cases (76 percent). Laparoscopic operation was associated with more operative complications (odds ratio 3.02, p < 0.001), but with fewer general complications (odds ratio 0.32, p < 0.001). The mean time to return to work was 15 days for laparoscopic cases compared to 31 days for open procedures (p < 0.001). The only functional outcome difference between the two procedures was that patients who underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomies were more likely than those with conventional cholecystectomies to be able to perform their usual activities at follow-up evaluation (p < .001). There was evidence of a learning curve; the more laparoscopic procedures a surgeon performed, the fewer the operative (p < 0.01) and general (p < 0.0001) complications. There was no indication that the availability of laparoscopic operation was associated with more operations being performed.


Laparoscopic operation seems to represent a significant advance in getting patients back to a normal life sooner. More attention needs to be given to which patients are most likely to benefit from cholecystectomy of either type. Epidemiologic approaches can be useful in assessing the effectiveness of care. Partnerships between providers and researchers can produce useful effectiveness data by supplementing available clinical records with more detailed outcome data.

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