INTRODUCTION: Biliary symptoms whilst awaiting elective cholecystectomy are common, resulting in hospital admission, further investigation and increased hospital costs. Immediate cholecystectomy during the first admission is safe and effective, even when performed laparoscopically, but acute laparoscopic cholecystectomy has only recently become increasingly commonplace in the UK. This study was designed to quantify this problem in our hospital and its cost implications.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: The case notes of all patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy in our hospital between January 2004 and June 2005 were examined for details of hospital admissions with biliary symptoms or complications whilst waiting for elective cholecystectomy. Additional bed occupancy and radiological investigations were recorded and these costs to the trust calculated. We compared the potential tariff income to the hospital trust for the actual management of these patients and if a policy of acute laparoscopic cholecystectomy on first admission were in place.
RESULTS: In the 18-month study period, 259 patients (202 females) underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Of these, 147 presented as out-patients and only 11% required hospital admission because of biliary symptoms whilst waiting for elective surgery. There were 112 patients who initially presented acutely and were managed conservatively. Twenty-four patients were re-admitted 37 times, which utilised 231 hospital bed-days and repeat investigations costing over 40,000 pounds. There would have been a marginal increase in tariff income if a policy of acute laparoscopic cholecystectomy had been in place.
CONCLUSIONS: Adoption of a policy of acute laparoscopic cholecystectomy on the index admission would result in substantial cost savings to the trust, reduce elective cholecystectomy waiting times and increase tariff income.