The management of acute cholecystitis in elderly patients

A. Hafif, M. Gutman*, O. Kaplan, E. Winkler, R. R. Rozin, Y. Skornick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acute cholecystitis is a common cause of emergency room admissions in elderly patients, and may have an atypical course with serious complications and high mortality. The authors present 131 elderly patients (aged 70 and older) who were treated for acute cholecystitis. The most common complaint was right upper abdominal pain (73%), followed by fever (55%), vomiting (48%), palpable mass (22%) and jaundice (13%). Twelve per cent of the patients were in septic shock on admission. Most patients (74%) had severe concomitant disease, increasing their operative risk significantly. Patients were prepared for surgery by hydration, nasogastric drainage, and antibiotics, while imaging was performed. They were all operated on within 48 hours. The operation of choice was cholecystectomy, which was performed in 86 patients. In 45 older and high risk patients, cholecystostomy was performed. The decision to perform cholecystostomy was taken prior to the operation, and was based on the estimated operative risk. Five patients (3.8%) died postoperatively. The major cause of death was cardiovascular disorders. Major complications occurred in 14.5 per cent and minor in 23 per cent of the patients. The complication rate correlated with severe concomitant diseases and older age groups. Patients with fever and leukocytosis had a better outcome, possibly reflecting a better immunologic status. The authors conclude that aggressive preoperative preparation and judicious use of cholecystostomy as a life-saving drainage procedure can lower the mortality from acute cholecystitis in the elderly population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-652
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


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