In less than a decade, laparoscopic methods have dramatically improved the safety and convenience of cholecystectomy. As a result, the number of cholecystectomies performed nationwide has increased significantly. Whether this increase is a reflection of any major change in operative indications is unclear; the actual answer may vary from community to community. Silent gallstones continue to represent a sometimes contentious therapeutic dilemma. Because their natural history is unlikely to have changed, the management guidelines previously established for open cholecystectomy continue to have relevance today. Thus, it can be agreed that the majority of patients with silent gallstones do not require a cholecystectomy. The changing risk- benefit ratio suggests that some liberalization of these guidelines may now be in order. Already a number of transplantation surgeons have begun to recommend pretransplant cholecystectomy for asymptomatic patients who are found to have gallstones during screening. Available evidence also appears to support the use of pre-emptive laparoscopic cholecystectomy for other indications such as in selected women of childbearing age, young children, and patients with very large gallstones. The problem of silent gallstones in diabetics continues to be more enigmatic, but some complicated diabetics are probably best managed with operation. Other patient groups who are at high risk of having adverse outcomes from expectant management will be more precisely identified by future research efforts. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy should also be helpful in patients with various forms of acalculous biliary disease. However, special caution is advisable in approaching chronic acalculous cholecystitis until more specific and reproducible diagnostic methods are further validated.
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