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Am Surg. 1986 Apr;52(4):188-92.

Posttraumatic and postoperative acute cholecystitis.


The development of peritonitis in hospitalized patients, especially those with significant associated illness, can be a difficult and delayed diagnosis. To ascertain the clinical presentation of acute cholecystitis in this group, a retrospective analysis was performed. Over a 10-year period 18 patients were identified who developed either posttraumatic or postoperative acute cholecystitis. The condition occurred in 12 patients admitted for some form of trauma and in six patients after elective surgery. Fever and right upper quadrant pain and tenderness were present in most. These physical findings were generally accompanied by leukocytosis (average = 16,200), hyperbilirubinemia (average = 4.2), and elevated alkaline phosphatase (average = 214). At laparotomy gangrenous cholecystitis was found in the majority, reflecting delayed diagnosis. Eleven patients had acalculous disease, and seven patients calculous cholecystitis. Three patients died, yielding a 17 per cent mortality. The majority with acalculous disease had significant underlying illness. Shock, multiple transfusions, or infection preceded acute cholecystitis in this group. Those with calculous cholecystitis were usually not as ill prior to its development. The morbidity of acute cholecystitis in previously hospitalized patients can be reduced by an awareness of the predisposing factors in those with acalculous disease. Emphasis should be placed on signs and symptoms rather than laboratory values to ensure early diagnosis and treatment of acute cholecystitis in hospitalized patients regardless of the presence or absence of gallstones.

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