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Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Jan;99(1):147-55.

Timing of cholecystectomy for acute calculous cholecystitis: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine General Surgery Unit, San Filippo Neri Hospital, Rome, Italy.



To compare early with delayed cholecystectomy for the treatment of acute lithiasic cholecystitis: a meta-analysis of prospective randomized trials.


Pertinent studies were selected from the Medline, Embase, Cancerlit, HealthSTAR and Cochrane Library Databases, references from published articles, and reviews. Twelve prospective randomized trials (9 addressing open cholecystectomy and 3 laparoscopic cholecystectomy) were selected. Conventional meta-analysis according to the DerSimonian and Laird method was used for the pooling of the results. The rate difference (RD) (95% CI) and the number needed to treat (NNT) were used as a measure of the therapeutic effect.


Cumulative operative and perioperative mortality and morbidity were 0.9% and 17.8%, respectively, for open cholecystectomy and 0% and 13.1%, respectively, for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The pooled RD for operative complications in early surgery was 1.37% (95% CI =-3.78% to 6.53%; p= 0.2) for open cholecystectomy and 3.11% (95% CI =-15.10% to 8.87%; p= 0.6) for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In laparoscopic cholecystectomy the cumulative conversion rate to open cholecystectomy was 21.5%. The pooled RD for conversion rate in early laparoscopic cholecystectomy was -7.99% (95% CI =-18.46% to 2.47%; p= 0.1; NNT = 13). Total hospital stay (mean +/- SD) was significantly shorter in the early surgery group (9.6 +/- 2.5 days vs 17.8 +/- 5.8 days; p < 0.0001). More than 20% of patients referred to delayed surgery fail to respond to conservative management or suffer recurrent cholecystitis in the interval period.


Early operation (open or laparoscopic) does not carry a higher risk of mortality and morbidity compared to delayed operation and should be the preferred surgical approach for patients with acute lithiasic cholecystitis.

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