Gallstone Ileus. What therapeutic options are there?

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Alin Mihai Vasilescu
Eugen Tarcoveanu
Costel Bradea
Cristian Lupascu
Franco Stagniti


Gallstone ileus is a rare disorder in emergency surgical practice with diagnosis usually difficult and only achieved at surgery. The current approaches are: enterolithotomy, cholecystectomy and fistula repair (one-stage surgery), enterolithotomy with cholecystectomy performed later (two-stage surgery) and only enterolithotomy (most reported surgical procedure).

Methods: The clinical, operative and follow-up data on 14 consecutive patients treated in our clinic for gallstone ileus was retrospectively reviewed. Results: Gallstone ileus was recorded in 0.06% of all operations for biliary lithiasis and 1% of all enteric occlusions. There were 11 women and one men, with a mean age of 77.3 (range 67-100) years.

There was a mean delay of 3.16 days for onset of symptoms to admission. Urgent laparotomy confirmed gallstone obstruction and a cholecysto-duodenal fistula (13 cases) or cholecysto-colonic fistula (1 case). We performed one stage surgery in 4 cases, enterolithotomy alone in 8 cases (one case operated initially in another surgical service), Hartman procedure, cholecystectomy and fistula repair in one case and a spontaneous evacuation of the gallstone with cholecystectomy and fistula repair later in another case. We recorded 2 deaths in patients with multiple comorbidities in which only enterolithotomy was performed and with 1 and 2 reinterventions, respectively. Postoperative stay was 9.4 days for cases with simple enterolithotomy and 18.6 days for cases with radical treatment. We did not record any recurrence. Conclusions: Although rarely encountered in surgical practice, gallstones ileus should be noted in the differential diagnosis of intestinal obstruction in patients with a past history of biliary disease, occlusive syndrome, pneumobilia and possibly ectopic gallstone. The one-stage procedure should be the offered to stabilized patients, but in cases with associated comorbidities, only enterolithotomy represent a best option.

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How to Cite
Alin Mihai Vasilescu, et al. “Gallstone Ileus. What Therapeutic Options Are There?”. Annali Italiani Di Chirurgia, vol. 93, no. 3, May 2022, pp. 200-6,