Percutaneous cholecystostomy offers a potentially important therapeutic modality for critically ill patients with acute cholecystitis who represent a high risk for general anaesthesia. The aim of the study was to assess experience with percutaneous cholecystostomy in resolving the acute episode of cholecystitis without operative intervention. Twenty‐two consecutive patients with a clinical diagnosis of acute cholecystitis underwent the procedure. All were at high risk for general anaesthesia, and all but one developed cholecystitis while hospitalized for another co‐morbid condition; 14 were in an intensive care unit. Twenty‐one of the 22 patients proved to have acute cholecystitis (11 acalculous, ten cholelithiasis). There were no acute technical complications. Toxaemia resolved in 17 of the 21 patients with acute cholecystitis. Acute cholecystitis failed to resolve in three patients; all died within 48 h from overwhelming generalized sepsis. One patient required emergency cholecystectomy for bile peritonitis when the cholecystostomy catheter became dislodged 24 h after placement. The 60‐day mortality rate for the acalculous and calculous patient groups was 55 and 20 per cent, respectively. Only three interval cholecystectomies have been performed at a mean follow‐up of 19 months. In conclusion, percutaneous cholecystostomy may be the procedure of choice for the management of acute cholecystitis in the very high‐risk critically ill patient. If symptoms fail to resolve quickly, ongoing sepsis, cholangitis or gallbladder necrosis should be suspected.
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