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Cholecystectomy may be difficult and hazardous, causing major morbidity and mortality. This review aims to identify situations increasing the probability of difficult gallbladders and present today’s best practice to overcome them.
Review of the literature and expert comment.
One in six gallbladders is expected to be a difficult cholecystectomy. The majority can be predicted by patient history, clinical symptoms, and pre-existing comorbidities. Acute cholecystitis, mild biliary pancreatitis, prior endoscopic sphincterotomy, and liver cirrhosis are the predominant underlying diseases. Early or delayed cholecystectomy, percutaneous cholecystostomy, and pure conservative treatment are evidence-based options. Early laparoscopic cholecystectomy is of advantage in patients fit for surgery, with subtotal cholecystectomy or conversion to open surgery as bail-out strategies. The choice of the procedure depends on the experience of the surgeon.
Clinical decisions should follow a pathway based on patients’ risk, favoring laparoscopic cholecystectomy whenever possible. The implementation of an institutional pathway to deal with difficult gallbladders is recommended.