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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1994 May;162(5):1101-3.

Gallstones in critically ill patients with acute calculous cholecystitis treated by percutaneous cholecystostomy: nonsurgical therapeutic options.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.



Patients with acute calculous cholecystitis require removal of gallstones (generally cholecystectomy), as acute cholecystitis is likely to recur if gallstones are left in situ. The purpose of this study was to assess the role of nonsurgical techniques for treating gallstones in critically ill patients with acute calculous cholecystitis managed by percutaneous cholecystostomy.


Twenty-six critically ill patients with complex medical and surgical problems who were in intensive care units underwent emergent percutaneous cholecystostomy for acute calculous cholecystitis. Seven of the 26 patients subsequently died of multiple organ failure. Curative gallstone therapies were tried in the surviving 19 patients, seven of whom underwent elective surgical cholecystectomy. Nonsurgical management was attempted in 12 of 19 patients, including six with terminal disease who were treated with long-term gallbladder drainage, three who were treated with methyl tert-butyl ether for stone dissolution, two who had percutaneous cholecystolithotomy, and one who had a gallbladder stone that had passed into the common bile duct and was retrieved endoscopically.


Long-term gallbladder drainage was successful in all six patients with terminal disease in whom it was attempted; they experienced no further episodes of cholecystitis. In four of the other six patients treated with nonsurgical therapies (percutaneous cholecystolithotomy, stone dissolution with methyl tert-butyl ether, and endoscopic removal), gallstones were successfully removed and no further therapy was required. Percutaneous therapies failed in two patients, who then had cholecystectomy.


Nonsurgical gallstone therapies should be attempted in high-risk patients with acute calculous cholecystitis. Some patients may benefit from long-term catheter drainage of the gallbladder.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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