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The Journal of Emergency Medicine, Vol. -, No. -, pp.

1–3, 2017
Ó 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
0736-4679/$ - see front matter


Communications: Adult



Jacob Lentz, MD,* Maria A. Tobar, BA, BS,† and Caleb P. Canders, MD*
*Department of Emergency Medicine, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California and †The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA,
Los Angeles, California
Reprint Address: Caleb P. Canders, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 924 Westwood Boulevard,
Suite 300, Box 951777, Los Angeles, California 90095-1777

, Abstract—Background: Spilled gallstones are common reported 1–2% of total cholecystectomies result in
during laparoscopic cholecystectomy; however, they rarely retained, spilled gallstones (1,2). Abscesses resulting
lead to postoperative complications. Perihepatic abscesses from spilled gallstones are uncommon and usually
develop in < 0.1% of patients with spilled gallstones and are occur within the first postoperative year and are limited
typically contained within the peritoneal cavity. Case Report:
to the abdomen (1). We present a 57-year old man with
We present a 57-year-old man with history of cholecystectomy
history of laparoscopic cholecystectomy 2 years prior
2 years prior who presented with cough and flank pain and was
discovered to have a perihepatic abscess invading his lung and who presented with cough and flank pain and was discov-
kidney secondary to a spilled gallstone. Why Should Emer- ered to have a perihepatic abscess invading his thorax and
gency Physicians Be Aware of This?: Although most perihe- kidney. The abscess failed to resolve with percutaneous
patic abscesses can be treated with percutaneous drainage drainage and antibiotics. Open thoracotomy revealed
and antibiotics, abscesses secondary to spilled gallstones usu- spilled gallstones as the nidus of infection. Emergency
ally require open or laparoscopic surgery to drain the abscess physicians should consider delayed development of an
and retrieve the gallstone. Prompt identification of spilled gall- intra-abdominal or -thoracic abscess secondary to spilled
stones in patients with intra-abdominal and intrathoracic ab- gallstones in the differential diagnosis of patients with the
scesses can thereby guide disposition and decrease morbidity appropriate surgical history.
and mortality. Ó 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

, Keywords—perihepatic abscess; pulmonary abscess; CASE REPORT

renal abscess; spilled gallstone; laparoscopic cholecystectomy
complications A 57-year-old man with history of diabetes presented
with 2 weeks of intermittent, sharp, right flank pain that
radiated to his right shoulder and was worse with
movement. He also reported 2 weeks of pleuritic, right-
INTRODUCTION sided chest pain associated with a dry cough and painless
hematuria. He denied hemoptysis, night sweats, fevers,
Gallbladder perforation is common during laparoscopic chills, weight loss, shortness of breath, dyspnea on
cholecystectomy and results in spilled gallstones in up exertion, dysuria, or urinary frequency. Surgical history
to 10% of cases (1–4). Surgeons typically attempt to was notable for cholecystectomy 2 years prior. He was
retrieve spilled gallstones intraoperatively, however, a afebrile with a pulse of 110 beats/min, blood pressure

RECEIVED: 25 July 2016; FINAL SUBMISSION RECEIVED: 21 December 2016;

ACCEPTED: 22 December 2016

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2 J. Lentz et al.

of 170/80 mm Hg, respiratory rate of 22 breaths/min, and

oxygen saturation of 99% on room air. Examination was
notable for sinus tachycardia, decreased breath sounds on
the right, and tenderness to palpation of his right chest
wall and right costovertebral angle.
Blood tests were notable for: hemoglobin 10.2 g/dL
(normal 11.2–16.0 g/DL), white blood cell count
14.4  103 cells/mm3 (normal 3.8–10.9  103 cells/mm3)
with 83% neutrophils, and platelet count 450,000 cells/
mL (normal 141,000–401,000 cells/mL). Results from a
comprehensive metabolic panel and coagulation studies
were normal. Urinalysis showed numerous red blood cells.
A chest x-ray study revealed right lower and middle lobe
opacifications (Figure 1). A contrast-enhanced computed
tomography scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis showed
a perihepatic abscess with local invasion into the right
kidney and lung (Figure 2).
The patient received intravenous fluids and broad-
spectrum antibiotics. Interventional radiology and cardio-
thoracic surgery were consulted to discuss drainage, and
the patient was admitted to the medical intensive care
unit for close monitoring. Interventional radiology-
guided drainage failed to resolve the abscess and the
Figure 2. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography reveals a
patient subsequently underwent open thoracic drainage. loculated cystic structure surrounding the liver (white star) with
Intraoperatively, the patient was discovered to have multi- invasion into the right renal capsule (black arrow) and through
ple, spilled gallstones from his prior cholecystectomy in the diaphragm into the right pleural cavity (white arrow).
the perihepatic abscess cavity. Cultures of the abscess
grew Klebsiella pneumonia. gallstones rarely lead to complications, and < 0.1% of
patients with spilled gallstones develop postoperative
DISCUSSION abscesses (5). Abscess formation is likely to occur in
older patients and patients who have acute cholecystitis
Iatrogenic gallbladder perforation occurs in 10–40% of at the time of surgery. Literature on intrathoracic and
laparoscopic cholecystectomies and results in retained, renal complications of spilled gallstones after laparo-
spilled gallstones in 1–2% of cases (1–4). Spilled scopic cholecystectomy is scarce. Pulmonary abscess,
empyema, broncholithiasis, cholelithoptysis, and peri-
nephric abscess have all been reported secondary to
spilled gallstones (6–9). Intra-abdominal and -thoracic
abscesses secondary to spilled gallstones typically
develop in the first year after cholecystectomy; however,
delayed abscess formation has been reported up to
15 years after cholecystectomy (10).
Perihepatic abscesses, although rare overall, can be life
threatening (11). In addition to spilled gallstones, perihe-
patic abscesses have been reported as a complication of
biliary tract disease (the most common etiology), appen-
dicitis, hematogenous or local spread from other intra-
abdominal infections, spilled appendicoliths, and retained
surgical sponges (12,13). Perihepatic abscesses can
extend into the right perinephric space and pleural
cavity by direct invasion or via lymphatic channels that
span the diaphragm. Escherichia coli and Klebsiella
pneumoniae are the two most common bacteria
Figure 1. A chest x-ray study reveals right lower and middle identified in cultures from perihepatic abscesses (13).
lobe opacifications (black star). Most perihepatic abscesses are small and can be treated

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Perihepatic, Pulmonary, and Renal Abscesses Due to Spilled Gallstones 3

with percutaneous drainage and broad-spectrum antibi- 3. Memon MA, Deeik RK, Maffi TR, et al. The outcome of unre-
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to improve with antibiotics or percutaneous drainage. Iden- abscess detected postcholecystectomy. Ann Thorac Surg 2012;93:
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abscess can be invasive and potentially fatal, and surgical the source of an enigma. JSLS 2008;12:321–5.
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