Gallstones — an increasing problem: a study of hospital admissions in England between 1989/1990 and 1999/2000


Dr J.-Y. Kang, Department of Gastroenterology, St George's Hospital, Blackshaw Road, London SW17 0QT, UK.


Background : The number of operations for cholelithiasis increased from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Aims : To determine the time trends in cholelithiasis for hospital admissions, operations and in-hospital case fatalities in England between 1989/1990 and 1999/2000, and population mortality rates between 1979 and 1999.

Methods : Hospital Episode Statistics for admissions were obtained from the Department of Health and mortality data were obtained from the Office for National Statistics.

Results : Between 1989/1990 and 1999/2000, age-standardized hospital admission rates for cholelithiasis increased by 30% for males and 64% for females. The proportions of admissions undergoing an operation declined progressively over the study period. In 1999/2000, the frequency of operation was approximately 50–60% for most age groups, but decreased progressively with advancing age at ≥ 65 years. The proportions of admissions undergoing therapeutic endoscopy increased several-fold, especially amongst older individuals. Case fatality rates declined. Mortality rates declined from 1979 to 1988, but showed no further change from 1989 to 1999.

Conclusions : There has been a steady increase in admission rates for cholelithiasis over the study period. Whilst the frequency of operation has declined, the proportion of patients undergoing therapeutic endoscopy has increased.