BACKGROUND: Delay of laparoscopic cholecystectomy after the diagnosis of uncomplicated biliary disease is common at our institution. This study assessed the effect of delay of operation for symptomatic biliary disease. METHODS: A cohort of 251 patients was retrospectively reviewed at Parkland Memorial Hospital with follow-up available for 168 patients (67%) from January 1998 to July 1998. Data were analyzed using Student's t test and the chi-square test. RESULTS: Of the 88 patients with the initial diagnosis of biliary colic, 69 (78%) underwent elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Thirty-six patients made a total of 44 return visits the emergency department with a recurrent attack of biliary colic or a complication of gallstone disease. Mean operative time increased from 94 minutes for elective operations to 122 minutes for nonelective operations and hospital stay increased from 0.6 days to 6.1 days. Conversion to open operation increased from 6% in the elective group to 26% in the nonelective group. CONCLUSIONS: Delay of surgical therapy is associated with complications, increased operative times, higher conversion to open cholecystectomy, and prolonged hospitalization. We conclude that patients with symptomatic cholelithiasis should undergo early cholecystectomy.
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