A population-based cohort study comparing laparoscopic cholecystectomy and open cholecystectomy

Steven L Zacks, Robert S Sandler, Robert Rutledge, Robert S Brown
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2002, 97 (2): 334-40

OBJECTIVES: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) has become a popular alternative to open cholecystectomy (OC). Previous studies comparing outcomes in LC and OC used small selected cohorts of patients and did not control for comorbid conditions that might affect outcome. The aims of this study were to characterize the morbidity, mortality, and costs of LC and OC in a large unselected cohort of patients.

METHODS: We used the population-based North Carolina Discharge Abstract Database (NCHDAD) for January 1, 1991, to September 30, 1994 (n = 850,000) to identify patients undergoing OC and LC. We identified the indications for surgery, complications, and type of perioperative biliary imaging used. We compared length of stay, hospital charges, complications, morbidity, and mortality between OC and LC patients. To account for variations in outcomes from differences in age and comorbidity between the OC and LC groups, we used the age-adjusted Charlson Comorbidity Index in regression analyses quantifying the association between type of surgery and outcome.

RESULTS: Our cohort consisted of 43,433 patients (19,662 LC and 23,771 OC). The mean age-adjusted Charlson Comorbidity Index score was slightly higher for the OC compared to the LC group (4.3 vs 4.1, p < 0.05). The OC patients had longer hospitalizations, generated more charges ($12,125 vs $9,139, p < 0.05), and required home care more often. The crude risk ratio comparing risk of death in OC to LC was 5.0 (95% CI = 3.9-6.5). After controlling for age, comorbidity, and sex, the odds of dying in the OC group was still 3.3 times (95% CI = 1.4-7.3) greater than in the LC group. In the LC group, the number of patients with acute cholecystitis rose over the study period, whereas the number of patients with chronic cholecystitis declined. In the OC group, the number of patients with acute and chronic cholecystitis declined. The use of intraoperative cholangiography was greater in the OC group but declined in both groups over the study period. The use of ERCP was greater in the LC group and increased in both groups over time.

CONCLUSIONS: The introduction of LC has resulted in a change in the management of cholecystitis. Despite a higher proportion of patients with acute cholecystitis, the risk of dying was significantly less in LC than in OC patients, even after controlling for age and comorbidity. Based on lower costs and better outcomes, LC seems to be the treatment of choice for acute and chronic cholecystitis.

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