Delayed Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy for Acute Calculous Cholecystitis: Is it Time for a Change?
BACKGROUND Gallstones are present in about 10% to 15% of the adult western population. Between 1% and 4% of these adults become symptomatic in a year (the majority due to biliary colic but a significant proportion due to acute cholecystitis). Laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis is mainly performed after the acute cholecystitis episode settles because of the fear of higher morbidity and of need for conversion from laparoscopic to open cholecystectomy. However, delaying surgery exposes the people to gallstone-related complications. OBJECTIVES The aim of this systematic review was to compare early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (less than seven days of clinical presentation with acute cholecystitis) versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy (more than six weeks after index admission with acute cholecystitis) with regards to benefits and harms. SEARCH METHODS We searched the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded, and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform until July 2012. SELECTION CRITERIA We included all randomised clinical trials comparing early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy in participants with acute cholecystitis. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS We used standard methodological procedures expected by The Cochrane Collaboration. MAIN RESULTS We identified seven trials that met the inclusion criteria. Out of these, six trials provided data for the meta-analyses. A total of 488 participants with acute cholecystitis and fit to undergo laparoscopic cholecystectomy were randomised to early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (ELC) (244 people) and delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy (DLC) (244 people) in the six trials. Blinding was not performed in any of the trials and so all the trials were at high risk of bias. Other than blinding, three of the six trials were at low risk of bias in the other domains such as sequence generation, allocation concealment, incomplete outcome data, and selective outcome reporting. The proportion of females ranged between 43.3% and 80% in the trials that provided this information. The average age of participants ranged between 40 years and 60 years. There was no mortality in any of the participants in five trials that reported mortality. There was no significant difference in the proportion of people who developed bile duct injury in the two groups (ELC 1/219 (adjusted proportion 0.4%) versus DLC 2/219 (0.9%); Peto OR 0.49; 95% CI 0.05 to 4.72 (5 trials)). There was no significant difference between the two groups (ELC 14/219 (adjusted proportion 6.5%) versus DLC 11/219 (5.0%); RR 1.29; 95% CI 0.61 to 2.72 (5 trials)) in terms of other serious complications. None of the trials reported quality of life from the time of randomisation. There was no significant difference between the two groups in the proportion of people who required conversion to open cholecystectomy (ELC 49/244 (adjusted proportion 19.7%) versus DLC 54/244 (22.1%); RR 0.89; 95% CI 0.63 to 1.25 (6 trials)). The total hospital stay was shorter in the early group than the delayed group by four days (MD -4.12 days; 95% CI -5.22 to -3.03 (4 trials; 373 people)). There was no significant difference in the operating time between the two groups (MD -1.22 minutes; 95% CI -3.07 to 0.64 (6 trials; 488 people)). Only one trial reported return to work. The people belonging to the ELC group returned to work earlier than the DLC group (MD -11.00 days; 95% CI -19.61 to -2.39 (1 trial; 36 people)). Four trials did not report any gallstone-related morbidity during the waiting period. One trial reported five gallstone-related morbidities (cholangitis: two; biliary colic not requiring urgent operation: one; acute cholecystitis not requiring urgent operation: two). There were no reports of pancreatitis during the waiting time. Gallstone-related morbidity was not reported in the remaining trials. Forty (18.3%) of the people belonging to the delayed group had either non-resolution of symptoms or recurrence of symptoms before their planned operation and had to undergo emergency laparoscopic cholecystectomy in five trials. The proportion with conversion to open cholecystectomy was 45% (18/40) in this group of people. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS We found no significant difference between early and late laparoscopic cholecystectomy on our primary outcomes. However, trials with high risk of bias indicate that early laparoscopic cholecystectomy during acute cholecystitis seems safe and may shorten the total hospital stay. The majority of the important outcomes occurred rarely, and hence the confidence intervals are wide. It is unlikely that future randomised clinical trials will be powered to measure differences in bile duct injury and other serious complications since this might involve performing a trial of more than 50,000 people, but several smaller randomised trials may answer the questions through meta-analyses.