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World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Aug 14;18(30):4019-27. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i30.4019.

Incidental gallbladder cancer during laparoscopic cholecystectomy: managing an unexpected finding.

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Department of Surgery, General Surgery and Breast Unit, University of Catania, Via S. Sofia 78, 95123 Catania, Italy.



To evaluate the impact of incidental gallbladder cancer on surgical experience.


Between 1998 and 2008 all cases of cholecystectomy at two divisions of general surgery, one university based and one at a public hospital, were retrospectively reviewed. Gallbladder pathology was diagnosed by history, physical examination, and laboratory and imaging studies [ultrasonography and computed tomography (CT)]. Patients with gallbladder cancer (GBC) were further analyzed for demographic data, and type of operation, surgical morbidity and mortality, histopathological classification, and survival. Incidental GBC was compared with suspected or preoperatively diagnosed GBC. The primary endpoint was disease-free survival (DFS). The secondary endpoint was the difference in DFS between patients previously treated with laparoscopic cholecystectomy and those who had oncological resection as first intervention.


Nineteen patients (11 women and eight men) were found to have GBC. The male to female ratio was 1:1.4 and the mean age was 68 years (range: 45-82 years). Preoperative diagnosis was made in 10 cases, and eight were diagnosed postoperatively. One was suspected intraoperatively and confirmed by frozen sections. The ratio between incidental and nonincidental cases was 9/19. The tumor node metastasis stage was: pTis (1), pT1a (2), pT1b (4), pT2 (6), pT3 (4), pT4 (2); five cases with stage Ia (T1 a-b); two with stage Ib (T2 N0); one with stage IIa (T3 N0); six with stage IIb (T1-T3 N1); two with stage III (T4 Nx Nx); and one with stage IV (Tx Nx Mx). Eighty-eight percent of the incidental cases were discovered at an early stage (≤ II). Preoperative diagnosis of the 19 patients with GBC was: GBC with liver invasion diagnosed by preoperative CT (nine cases), gallbladder abscess perforated into hepatic parenchyma and involving the transversal mesocolon and hepatic hilum (one case), porcelain gallbladder (one case), gallbladder adenoma (one case), and chronic cholelithiasis (eight cases). Every case, except one, with a T1b or more advanced invasion underwent IVb + V wedge liver resection and pericholedochic/hepatoduodenal lymphadenectomy. One patient with stage T1b GBC refused further surgery. Cases with Tis and T1a involvement were treated with cholecystectomy alone. One incidental case was diagnosed by intraoperative frozen section and treated with cholecystectomy alone. Six of the nine patients with incidental diagnosis reached 5-year DFS. One patient reached 38 mo survival despite a port-site recurrence 2 years after original surgery. Cases with non incidental diagnosis were more locally advanced and only two patients experienced 5-year DFS.


Laparoscopic cholecystectomy does not affect survival if implemented properly. Reoperation should have two objectives: R0 resection and clearance of the lymph nodes.


Hepatic resection; Incidental gallbladder cancer; Laparoscopic cholecystectomy; Lymph nodes; Management; Outcome

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