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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2000 Apr;174(4):973-7.

Prevalence and significance of gallbladder abnormalities seen on sonography in intensive care unit patients.

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Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02114, USA.



We evaluated sonographic abnormalities of the gallbladder other than acalculous cholecystitis across a broad range of intensive care unit (ICU) patients.


Fifty-five consecutive patients (age range, 18-94 years old; mean age, 56 years; 33 men, 22 women), who were admitted to the ICU with a variety of diagnoses, underwent sonography of the gallbladder twice a week. Patients with gallbladder calculi were excluded from the study. The gallbladder was examined for the recognized sonographic features of acalculous cholecystitis: gallbladder wall thickening, gallbladder distention, intramural gallbladder lucencies (striated gallbladder wall), pericholecystic fluid, gallbladder sludge, and Murphy's sign. These findings were correlated with clinical and laboratory parameters that are associated with acalculous cholecystitis: fever, WBC, liver function tests, levels of serum bilirubin, mechanical ventilation status, and administration of parenteral nutrition, narcotic analgesics, antibiotics, and pressor agents.


Eleven of the 55 patients were found to have gallbladder calculi and were excluded from the study. Thirty-seven (84%) of the remaining 44 patients had at least one sonographic abnormality while in the ICU. Twenty-five (57%) of the 44 patients had as many as three abnormalities found on sonography, and six (14%) of 44 patients had four or five sonographic findings of gallbladder abnormalities while in the ICU. No statistically significant correlation was found among any of these sonographic abnormalities and the clinical and laboratory parameters.


Gallbladder abnormalities are frequently seen on sonography in ICU patients, even if these patients are not suspected of having acalculous cholecystitis; therefore, sonography appears to be of limited value in diagnosing acalculous cholecystitis in ICU patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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