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Abstract

Aims:

Cholecystectomy is a common operation. This study reviewed the changes in workload and practice in a teaching hospital over a 4-year period, during which a hepatobiliary subspecialist unit was developed.

Methods:

Computerized demographic data, and details of operations and inpatient events were reviewed for all patients undergoing cholecystectomy in a single teaching hospital from 1993 to 1997. For statistical analysis the consultants were grouped into those with a hepatobiliary interest (n = 3) and those with other primary interests (n = 6); and the workload for the first 12 months of the study was compared with that of the last 12-month period.

Results:

Between April 1993 and April 1997, 1121 cholecystectomies were performed, of which 75 were excluded because they were performed with other simultaneous procedures. Of the remaining operations, 911 involved cholecystectomy alone (mean patient age 52·9 years), and 135 (12·9 per cent) comprised cholecystectomy with exploration of the common bile duct (ECBD) (mean age 60·1 years). Between the first and last years studied, the rate of ECBD rose significantly from 7·4 to 14·9 per cent (P < 0·01, χ2 test), and the proportion of ECBD procedures being performed by hepatobiliary specialists rose from 31·6 to 52·7 per cent, but this was not statistically significant (P = 0·13). However, for cholecystectomy in the same period the proportion performed by hepatobiliary surgeons rose from 40·4 to 58·5 per cent, representing a highly significant trend (P < 0·001). Following cholecystectomy alone there was a significantly shorter stay associated with patients treated by hepatobiliary surgeons (P = 0·002, F test), although the median postoperative hospital stay was 2 days for both groups of surgeons (interquartile range 1–3 days for hepatobiliary and 1–4 days for non-hepatobiliary surgeons).

Conclusions:

Although cholecystectomy is not viewed as a specialist procedure, the trend in this teaching hospital reveals a steady increase in the proportion of cholecystectomies being performed by teams with a biliary interest. The data indicate that this practice is associated with a shorter hospital stay. © 2000 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd