Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is now the gold standard procedure for symptomatic gallstone disease. Nevertheless, there are still several controversies such as the need for routine intraoperative cholangiogram (IOC), the indications for and results of early laparoscopic cholecystectomy in the setting of acute cholecystitis and the use of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography versus laparoscopic common bile duct (CBD) exploration for intraoperatively detected choledocholithiasis. The aim of this study was to investigate some of these controversies.Methods
All laparoscopic cholecystectomies carried out at our institution, a secondary referral centre in Adelaide, South Australia, over a 9-month period were prospectively audited. Data were collected regarding indications for surgery, rate of conversion to open operation, use of IOC, rate of choledocholithiasis and complication rate.Results
There were 202 patients, of whom 152 were women and 50 men. Age range was 15–83 years. Sixty-one per cent of emergency operations were for acute cholecystitis. The conversion rate for emergency operations was 20.6% and for elective procedures was 4.2% (P = 0.003).One hundred and eighty-four patients had an IOC performed. Twelve of these patients had choledocholithiasis. Six of these 12 patients had both normal preoperative ultrasound and liver function tests. Four of the patients went on to postoperative endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, four had successful laparoscopic CBD exploration, two had open CBD exploration and two had their distal CBD filling defects flushed away with normal saline. There was no morbidity associated with performance of the IOC. There were three patients with postoperative bile leak and one with a bile duct injury.Conclusion
Selective IOC would miss a proportion of patients with choledocholithiasis. Early laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis is associated with a higher conversion rate than elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Overall complication rate is low, with 95% of patients having no complications. Laparoscopic CBD exploration is feasible with a reasonable success rate. This can all be achieved at a secondary referral centre staffed by general surgeons.