Since 1989, laparoscopic cholecystectomy has been widely adopted as a treatment for gallstone disease. We analyzed the association between the introduction of this procedure and three variables: the rate at which cholecystectomy was performed in Maryland, the characteristics of patients undergoing cholecystectomy in routine clinical practice, and operative mortality. We used 1985-1992 hospital-discharge data from all 54 acute care hospitals in Maryland to identify open and laparoscopic cholecystectomies, characteristics of patients undergoing these procedures, and deaths occurring during hospitalizations in which these procedures were performed. The annual rate of cholecystectomy, adjusted for age, rose from 1.69 per 1000 state residents in 1987-1989 to 2.17 per 1000 residents in 1992, an increase of 28 percent (P<0.001). As compared with patients undergoing open cholecystectomy, patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy tended to be younger, less likely to have acute cholecystitis or a common-duct stone, and more likely to be white and have private health insurance or belong to a health maintenance organization (P<0.001). Although the operative mortality associated with laparoscopic cholecystectomy was less than that with open cholecystectomy (adjusted odds ratio, 0.22; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.13 to 0.37) and the overall mortality rate for all cholecystectomies declined from 0.84 percent in 1989 to 0.56 percent in 1992, there was no significant change in the total number of cholecystectomy-related operative deaths because of the increase in the cholecystectomy rate. In Maryland, although the adoption of laparoscopic cholecystectomy has been accompanied by a 33 percent decrease in overall operative mortality per procedure, the total number of cholecystectomy-related deaths has not fallen because of a 28 percent increase in the total rate of cholecystectomy.
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