Open Cholecystectomy

Open Cholecystectomy

Sean P. Montgomery

Preston B. Rich


  • Biliary colic (symptomatic cholelithiasis) is typically a right upper quadrant (RUQ) or epigastric postprandial pain. Symptoms classically start 30 to 90 minutes after eating and association with high-fat meals may be described. Nausea and bloating are common. The pain typically will resolve within 6 hours. Pain lasting more than 6 hours and/or fever is suggestive of acute cholecystitis.

  • On physical examination, tenderness will usually be present in the RUQ. The presence of a Murphy’s sign (inspiratory arrest with RUQ palpation) is suggestive of acute cholecystitis.


  • A fasting RUQ ultrasound is the “gold standard” for the diagnosis of gallstones and is frequently the only imaging necessary to diagnose acute cholecystitis. Gallstones are identified as mobile echogenic foci with posterior shadowing (FIG 1). Cholecystitis is suggested by gallbladder wall thickening (>3 mm), pericholecystic fluid, or inspiratory arrest elicited by placement of the ultrasound probe directly over the gallbladder (a sonographic Murphy’s sign). The sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound for calculous cholecystitis are around 82%.1 In critically ill patients with acalculous cholecystitis, the specificity drops significantly.

    FIG 1 • Gallbladder ultrasound. Figure A demonstrates the normal ultrasound appearance of the gallbladder. In Figure B, the presence of gallstones, thickening of the gallbladder wall, and gallbladder wall edema are suggestive of acute cholecystitis.

  • The other common imaging study used to diagnose gallbladder pathology is a nuclear medicine test called either hepatobiliary scintigraphy or a hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan (commonly referred to as a HIDA scan.) In this test, a radiolabeled substrate is intravenously administered, taken up by the liver, and excreted into the biliary tree (FIG 2). If the substrate fails to fill the gallbladder within 1 hour, the sensitivity is 96% for acute cholecystitis.1 A HIDA scan will also provide information about obstruction of the common bile duct, as substrate will be seen accumulating in the duodenum if the duct is not obstructed. In the setting of hepatic failure or cholestasis, this study is not useful, as the liver often will not take up enough substrate to allow an adequate study. Gallstones are not revealed with this study, but rather, the presence or absence of cholecystitis is determined by assessing patency of the cystic duct regardless of the etiology. HIDA scintigraphy is generally performed if the clinical findings and ultrasound are inconclusive for calculous cholecystitis or in critically ill patients with suspected acalculous cholecystitis.2


Preoperative Planning

  • The vast majority of patients will be appropriate candidates for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Conversion from laparoscopy due to variable anatomy or severe inflammation is the most common indication for the open procedure. Rare patients in whom a primary open cholecystectomy should be considered are the following:

    • Septic patients on vasoactive agents for hemodynamic support that have failed percutaneous drainage

    • Patients with complicated anterior abdominal walls and/or severe adhesions. Specifically, if there are large pieces
      of prosthetic mesh in the umbilical and epigastric areas and/or prior RUQ surgery, laparoscopic completion of a cholecystectomy can be challenging.

      FIG 2 • HIDA scintigraphy. In Figure A, tracer promptly fills the gallbladder and duodenum, demonstrating normal gallbladder physiology and a nonobstructed biliary system. In Figure B, nonfilling of the gallbladder at 1 hour following substrate injection is consistent with acute cholecystitis.

    • The need for concomitant open common bile duct exploration


  • The patient is positioned supine. Arms can be tucked by the side or extended out at right angles to the bed. An oral or nasal tube for gastric decompression is placed.

Jul 24, 2016 | Posted by in GENERAL SURGERY | Comments Off on Open Cholecystectomy
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