The aim of this study was to evaluate ultrasound findings as predictors of potential operative difficulties and complications during laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC). From October 1993 to June 1995 a total of 143 patients with symptomatic cholelithiasis (50 males, 93 females, mean age 49.5 ± 15 years) were evaluated by ultrasound (US) the day before LC. The US examination assessed six parameters: gallbladder (GB) volume, GB wall thickness, GB neck position, GB stone mobility, stone maximum size, and GB adhesions. On the basis of these US findings, a predictive judgment of technical difficulties was expressed by degree: easy, difficult, and very difficult. Altogether 101 patients presented with uncomplicated symptomatic cholelithiasis, and 42 had acute cholecystitis. The operation was predicted to be easy in 38% of cases, difficult in 49%, and very difficult in 13% with a good correlation with the surgeon's intraoperative judgment (r = 0.66). A significant association was found between stone mobility (r = 0.37), presence of adhesions (r = 0.36), and the difficulty of the procedure. The predictive US evaluation was significantly correlated with some intraoperative technical steps [dissection of Calot's triangle (r = 0.41), dissection of the gallbladder bed (r = 0.41)], and intraoperative bleeding (r = 0.271. Our results suggest that preoperative US is a useful screening test for patients undergoing LC, and it can help predict technical difficulties. On the other hand, a relevant number of cases still exist wherein the concordance between the preoperative US classification and the surgical findings is unsatisfactory. In this group the surgeon cannot safely rely on the US examination alone.
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