Gallbladder removal using laparoscopic techniques has rapidly been adopted by surgeons around the world. Questions have been raised concerning laparoscopic cholecystectomy, including the safety of the operation, its implications for management of common bile duct stones, and the means by which surgeons should be trained. In the present series, 424 patients were referred to a single surgeon for cholecystectomy during a 22-month period. A traditional open cholecystectomy was performed in 9 patients (2.1%) because of presumed contraindications to laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy was attempted in the remaining 415 patients (97.9%). On the basis of preoperative investigations, 19 patients (4.6%) underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. Endoscopic sphincterotomy and stone extraction were performed in the 13 patients (3.1%) demonstrating choledocholithiasis. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy was converted to an open operation in 8 patients (1.9%) owing to dense adhesions, obscure anatomy, or cholangiographic abnormalities. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy was successfully performed in 407 patients (96%) in 95 ± 2 minutes (mean ± SEM). Surgical trainees were involved in all operations and performed 68% of the procedures under supervision. Cystic duct cholangiograms were obtained selectively in 129 patients (30.4%). Intraoperative complications occurred in 3 patients, including 1 patient with a minor injury to the common bile duct (0.2%). There was no perioperative mortality, and major complications occurred in 6 patients (1.4%). Minor complications were seen in 12 others (2.8%), and one patient required reoperation for a trocar injury to the jejunum. Prolonged follow-up has revealed one case of asymptomatic retained common bile duct stones (0.2%). Laparoscopic cholecystectomy can therefore be performed in more than 95% of patients with no mortality and minimal morbidity. The operation is safely taught to surgical trainees. Choledocholithiasis may be treated by a combination of endoscopic and laparoscopic techniques. Because of these considerations, laparoscopic cholecystectomy has become the preferred therapy for symptomatic cholelithiasis at our institution.
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