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Int J Surg. 2017 Sep;45:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2017.07.046. Epub 2017 Jul 15.

Differentiation between gallbladder cancer with acute cholecystitis: Considerations for surgeons during emergency cholecystectomy, a cohort study.

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Department of Surgery, Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, Wonju Severance Christian Hospital, Wonju, South Korea.
Department of Radiology, Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, Wonju Severance Christian Hospital, Wonju, South Korea. Electronic address:
Department of Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Yonsei University Health System, Seoul, South Korea.



Gallbladder cancer (GBCA) is an uncommon malignancy with vague and non-specific symptoms. GBCA is sometimes diagnosed after emergency cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis. We investigated the differential diagnosis between GBCA with acute cholecystitis.


Thirteen patients were diagnosed with GBCA after emergency cholecystectomy carried out for acute cholecystitis. A radiologist who was blinded to the final diagnoses retrospectively reviewed the computed tomography (CT) scans of the patients with GBCA and 25 patients with acute cholecystitis. We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of these patients and compared the clinical characteristics and CT findings between patients with GBCA and those with acute cholecystitis. We also investigated the prognostic factors in patients with GBCA who underwent emergency cholecystectomy.


Gallbladder (GB) stones were found more often in patients with acute cholecystitis (n = 17, 68%) than in patients with GBCA (n = 7, 53.8%) (p = 0.486). Patients with GBCA showed typical GB masses or focal enhanced wall thickening when compared to diffuse wall thickening in patients with acute cholecystitis. Some GBCA patients showed irregular mural thickening and GB enhancement. Differentiating carcinoma from acute cholecystitis might sometimes not possible, but the latter group of patients had significantly lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (p = 0.033) and less regional fat stranding (p = 0.047). Survival was significantly affected by aggressive tumor characteristics (lymphatic invasion [p = 0.025], depth of tumor invasion [p = 0.004]) or R0 resection (p = 0.013) rather than bile spillage (p = 0.112).


Surgeons deciding on emergency cholecystectomy for elderly patients with acute cholecystitis must suspect GBCA in patients with a low CRP level, irregular mural thickening or enhancement of GB without regional fat stranding.


Acute cholecystitis; Emergency cholecystectomy; Fat stranding; Gallbladder cancer; Irregular mural thickening

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