Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is associated with a higher incidence of iatrogenic perforation of the gallbladder than open cholecystectomy. The long-term consequences of spilled bile and gallstones are unknown. Data were collected prospectively from 1059 consecutive patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy over a 3-year period. Details of the operative procedures and postoperative course of patients in whom gallbladder perforation occurred were reviewed. Long-term follow-up (range 24 to 59 months) was available for 92% of patients. Intraoperative perforation of the gallbladder occurred in 306 patients (29%); it was more common in men and was associated with increasing age, body weight, and the presence of omental adhesions (each P < 0.001). There was no increased risk in patients with acute cholecystitis (P = 0.13). Postoperatively pyrexia was more common in patients with spillage of gallbladder contents (18% vs. 9%; P < 0.001). Of the patients with long-term follow-up, intra-abdominal abscess developed in 1 (0.6%) of 177 with spillage of only bile, and in 3 (2.9%) of 103 patients with spillage of both bile and gallstones, whereas no intra-abdominal abscesses occurred in the 697 patients in whom the gallbladder was removed intact (P < 0.001). Intraperitoneal spillage of gallbladder contents during laparoscopic cholecystectomy is associated with an increased risk of intra-abdominal abscess. Attempts should be made to irrigate the operative field to evacuate spilled bile and to retrieve all gallstones spilled during the operative procedure.
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