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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for uncomplicated biliary colic

Kurinchi Selvan Gurusamy, Rahul Koti, Giuseppe Fusai, Brian R Davidson
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013 June 30, (6): CD007196
23813478

BACKGROUND: Uncomplicated biliary colic is one of the commonest indications for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves several months of waiting if performed electively. However, people can develop life-threatening complications during this waiting period.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the benefits and harms of early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for people with uncomplicated biliary colic due to gallstones.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Science Citation Index Expanded until March 2013.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included only randomised clinical trials, irrespective of language and publication status.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently extracted the data. We sought to include data on short-term mortality (30-day mortality or in-hospital mortality), bile duct injury, other serious adverse events, quality of life, conversion to open cholecystectomy, length of hospital stay, operating time, and return to work. We planned to calculate the risk ratio with 95% confidence interval (CI) for dichotomous outcomes and mean difference (MD) with 95% CI for continuous outcomes using RevMan and based on intention-to-treat analysis when data were available. Since only one trial contributed data to this review, Fisher's exact test was used for binary outcomes. A P value of < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

MAIN RESULTS: Only one trial including 75 participants (average age: 43 years; females: 65% of participants), randomised to early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (less than 24 hours after diagnosis) (n = 35) or delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy (mean waiting period of 4.2 months) (n = 40), contributed information to this review. The trial had a high risk of bias. Information on the outcome mortality was available for the 75 participants. Information on serious adverse events was available for 68 participants (28 people in the early group and 40 people in the delayed group). The other outcomes were available for 28 participants in the early laparoscopic cholecystectomy group and 35 participants in the delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy group. There were no deaths in the early group (0/35) (0%) versus 1/40 (2.5%) in the delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy group (P > 0.9999). There was no bile duct injury in either group. There were no serious adverse events related to the surgery in either group. During the waiting period, complications developed in the delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy group. The complications that the participants suffered included pancreatitis (n = 1), empyema of the gallbladder (n = 1), gallbladder perforation (n = 1), acute cholecystitis (n = 2), cholangitis (n = 2), obstructive jaundice (n = 2), and recurrent biliary colic (requiring hospital visits) (n = 5). In total, 14 participants required hospital admissions for the above symptoms. All of these admissions occurred in the delayed group as all the participants were operated on within 24 hours in the early group. The proportion of people who developed serious adverse events was 0/28 (0%) in the early group, which was significantly lower than in the delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy group 9/40 (22.5%) (P = 0.0082). This trial did not report quality of life or return to work. There was no significant difference in the proportion of people who required conversion to open cholecystectomy in the early group 0/28 (0%) compared with the delayed group (6/35 or 17.1%) (P = 0.0743). There was a statistically significant shorter hospital stay in the early group than in the delayed group (MD -1.25 days, 95% CI -2.05 to -0.45). There was a statistically significant shorter operating time in the early group than the delayed group (MD -14.80 minutes, 95% CI -18.02 to -11.58).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Based on evidence from only one high-bias risk trial, it appears that early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (less than 24 hours after diagnosis of biliary colic) decreases the morbidity during the waiting period for elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy (mean waiting time 4.2 months), the hospital stay, and operating time. Further randomised clinical trials are necessary to confirm or refute these findings, and to determine if early laparoscopic cholecystectomy is better than the delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy if the waiting time is shortened further.

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