Background: In a population-based study, we examined recurrence rates of acute pancreatitis (AP) after cholecystectomy performed to prevent recurrences of AP. Methods: We abstracted data from medical records of all Olmsted county residents who underwent cholecystectomy at Mayo Clinic for the management of presumed gallstone or idiopathic AP between 1990 and 2005 (n = 239). Based on (i) significantly elevated liver enzymes (≥threefold increase of alanine aminotransferase or aspartate aminotransferase) on day 1 and (ii) the presence of gallstones/sludge in the gall bladder, we categorized patients into 4 groups: A (i + ii), B (i but not ii), C (ii but not i), and D (neither i nor ii). Recurrence rates of AP after cholecystectomy were determined in all groups. Results: The median follow-up after cholecystectomy was 99 months (range, 8-220). AP recurred in 13 of 142 patients (9%) in group A, 1 of 17 patients (6%) in group B, 13 of 57 patients (23%) in group C, and 14 of 23 patients (61%) in group D (P <.0001 D vs all other groups and P =.001 C vs groups A and B). No difference was seen in recurrence rates in groups A vs B (P = 1.0). Recurrences were more frequent in patients with normal liver enzymes (A + B vs C + D; P = .000003) and in patients without sonographic evidence of gallstones/sludge (A + C vs B + D; P =.0008). Conclusion: When AP is associated with significantly elevated liver enzymes on day 1, recurrence rates after cholecystectomy are low (9%). However, postcholecystectomy recurrence rates of AP are high in those without such laboratory abnormalities (34%), especially in those without gall bladder stones/sludge (61%) on abdominal ultrasonography. Our results raise doubts about the efficacy of cholecystectomy to prevent recurrent AP in patients with the absence of either a significant elevation of liver tests on day 1 of AP or gallstones and/or sludge in the gall bladder on initial ultrasound examination.
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