We hypothesized that complications of gallstone disease are more common than previously recognized and are related to treatment delay.
Data for 248 consecutive patients from a university hospital in 1995-1996 and 40,571 patients identified through the 1996 California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development database who underwent cholecystectomy for gallstone disease were reviewed.
Main Outcome Measures
Diagnosis, length of hospital stay, hospital mortality, type of admission, type of surgical procedure, hospital cost, and interval of delay between onset of initial symptoms, ultrasound diagnosis, and cholecystectomy.
The spectrum of gallstone disease included biliary colic in 56%, acute cholecystitis in 36%, acute pancreatitis in 4%, choledocholithiasis in 3%, gallbladder cancer in 0.3%, and cholangitis in 0.2%. Community hospitals, public or county hospitals, and academic health centers had a similar distribution of diagnoses. Patients undergoing cholecystectomy for biliary colic had a significantly shorter length of hospital stay, lower operative mortality rate, were more likely to have their operations completed laparoscopically, and had lower hospital charges than patients undergoing cholecystectomy for complications such as acute cholecystitis. Over half of the patients requiring cholecystectomy for complications of gallstones initially presented with biliary colic. Patients with gallstone complications had an average delay from ultrasound confirmation to surgery of 6 months.
Complications of gallstone disease are (1) common, (2) costly, and (3) potentially preventable.