Seventeen high-risk critically ill patients with suspected cholecystitis underwent percutaneous transhepatic cholecystostomy between 1981 and 1986 using Hawkins' needle guide system for gallbladder intubation. Acute cholecystitis was documented in 15 patients, including 1 with common bile duct obstruction. Two other patients had common bile duct obstruction secondary to metastatic cancer (one patient) and chronic pancreatic fibrosis (one patient). There was rapid resolution of the signs and symptoms of cholecystitis, sepsis, or both in 16 of the 17 patients. One critically ill patient with positive findings on blood culture and an organism resistant to triple antibiotic therapy died soon after percutaneous cholecystostomy. In the entire group of 17 patients, there was no evidence of bile leaks or other catheter complications. Six patients subsequently underwent successful cholecystectomy and two underwent common bile duct exploration without complications. One patient underwent cholecystojejunostomy, and in three patients, the catheter was removed with no sequelae of cholecystitis. Two remaining patients had the catheter in place and were awaiting operation at last follow-up. Three of four patients who died within 30 days of percutaneous transhepatic cholangiographic cholecystostomy died either from the terminal malignant condition (two patients) or from arrhythmia (one patient with cirrhosis). This review suggests that percutaneous cholecystostomy is a safe and effective procedure for resolving acute cholecystitis in high-risk patients. In addition, the technique of percutaneous transhepatic cholangiographic cholecystostomy appears well suited for percutaneous dissolution of stones, sclerosis of the gallbladder, or both in selected high-risk critically ill patients.
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