Gangrenous cholecystitis is an advanced form of acute cholecystitis associated with increased morbidity and mortality. We sought to determine the incidence of gangrenous cholecystitis in an urban VA hospital patient population and identify any distinguishing characteristics that may aid in its preoperative diagnosis. We retrospectively reviewed all urgent admissions that underwent cholecystectomy (n = 65) over the past 7 years at the Allen Park VAMC. Using histologic criteria, 17 (26%) of these patients had gangrenous cholecystitis. As a group compared to patients with nongangrenous cholecystitis, patients with gangrenous cholecystitis were statistically older (64 vs 54) and had an elevated WBC (15.4 vs 11.5) and increased serum glucose levels (203 vs 141). Preoperative imaging studies (ultrasound and cholescintigraphy) correctly identified only 31% of the gangrenous cholecystitis patients. We conclude that in an urban VA hospital patient population, the diagnosis of gangrenous cholecystitis cannot be accurately made or ruled out among urgent admissions with acute biliary disease. Considering the high incidence (26%) and difficulty confirming the diagnosis of gangrenous cholecystitis in this setting, we recommend early surgical intervention for this and similar patient populations.
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