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Best Practice Guidance


Cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the gallbladder. The gallbladder in an organ located just below the liver on the right side of the body. It is usually performed laparoscopically (keyhole), but can be performed open, which involves a large cut under the right rib cage. A cholecystectomy can be performed for numerous indications, two of which are gallstones or gallstone pancreatitis. An interval cholecystectomy is one that is performed some weeks after the initial acute presentation, while an index cholecystectomy is one that is performed at the time of acute admission.


This guidance applies to adults aged 19 years and over.


For patients who are admitted to hospital with acute cholecystitis or mild gallstone pancreatitis, index laparoscopic cholecystectomy should be performed within that admission. These patients should have their gallbladders removed, ideally before discharge, to avoid further delay and prevent further potentially fatal attacks. If the patient is fit enough for surgery and same admission cholecystectomy will be delayed for more than 24 hours, it may be reasonable to make use of a virtual ward, where the patient can return home under close monitoring prior to undergoing surgery as soon as possible.

Otherwise patients diagnosed with acute cholecystitis should have their laparoscopic cholecystectomy on the same admission within 72 hours (NICE guidelines published in October 2014 state one week, but 72 hours is preferable). This guidance may not be applicable in patients with severe acute pancreatitis.

Surgery for these patients may be challenging and can be associated with a higher incidence of complications (particularly beyond 96 hours) and a higher conversion rate from laparoscopic surgery to open surgery. These patients should be operated on by surgeons with experience of operating on patients with acute cholecystitis, or if not available locally, transfer to a specialist unit should be considered. Timely intervention is preferable to a delayed procedure, and, if the operation cannot be performed during the index admission it should be performed within two weeks of discharge.

Rationale for recommendation

Numerous studies and literature reviews have shown that index cholecystectomy for mild pancreatitis is preferable to interval cholecystectomy.

Compared with interval cholecystectomy, index cholecystectomy reduced the rate of recurrent gallstone-related complications in patients with mild gallstone pancreatitis, with a very low risk of cholecystectomy related complications. In patients with mild biliary pancreatitis, same admission cholecystectomy reduces the rate of recurrent gallstone-related complications significantly from 17% to 5%. The readmission rate for gallstone related complications (pancreatitis, cholangitis, cholecystitis, choledocholithiasis or gallstone colic) is reduced in index versus interval cholecystectomy. It is recognised that index cholecystectomy can be more technically challenging due to inflammation, however, the immediate complication rate of the surgery (i.e. bile leak, wound infection) has been shown to largely similar between index and interval cholecystectomy.

In patients with moderate to severe acute cholecystitis (using the Tokyo Guidelines 2018 definitions) there may be an increased risk of bile duct injury. In patients with severe acute biliary pancreatitis, surgical intervention may be required for other sequalae of the pancreatitis and therefore cholecystectomy should be undertaken once the patient has recovered from any organ failure and when it is clear if any other intervention is required, for example for acute fluid collections or pancreatic necrosis.

Patient information

There is no specific EBI patient guidance for this intervention.

However, we recommend using the BRAN principles (Benfits, Risks, Alternatives and do Nothing) when speaking with patients about this.

Further information on patient involvement in EBI can be found on the EBI for patients section.


Make the most of your appointment using BRAN


Code Script

WHEN LEFT(Der.Spell_Dominant_Procedure,4) in ('J181','J182','J183','J184','J185','J188','J189’) 
AND der.Spell_primary_diagnosis like '%K851%’ 
AND isnull(APCS.Age_At_Start_of_Spell_SUS,APCS.Der_Age_at_CDS_Activity_Date) between 19 AND 120
THEN '2Q_interval_cholecystectomy'

Code Definitions

Procedure codes (OPCS)

J181 Total cholecystectomy and excision of surrounding tissue
J182 Total cholecystectomy and exploration of common bile duct
J183 Total cholecystectomy NEC
J184 Partial cholecystectomy and exploration of common bile duct
J185 Partial cholecystectomy NEC
J188 Other specified excision of gall bladder
J189 Unspecified excision of gall bladder

Diagnosis codes (ICD)

K800 Calculus of gallbladder with acute cholecystitis
K810 Acute cholecystitis
K851 Biliary acute pancreatitis

apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%C[0-9][0-9]%' and 
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D0%' and 
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D3[789]%' and
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D4[012345678]%’

This code captures code in the ranges C00-C99, D00-D09 and D37-D48.
Age range: the codes use the following age ranges 0-18 for children and 19-120
for adults.
— Private Appointment Exclusion
AND apcs.Administrative_Category<>’02’


  1. Clinical Guideline. 2014 Gallstone disease: diagnosis and management. [CG188].
  2. Malik HT, Marti J, Darzi A, Mossialos E. Savings from reducing low-value general surgical interventions. Br J Surg. 2018 Jan;105(1):13-25. doi:10.1002/bjs.10719.
  3. Schuster k, Holena D, salim A, savage S, crandall M, american association for the surgery of trauma emergency surgery guideline summaries: 2018, acute appendicitis, acute cholecystitis, acute diverticulitis, acute pancreatitis, and small bowel obstruction. Trauma surg acute care open. 2019; 4: e000281.
  4. da Costa DW, Bouwense SA, Schepers NJ, Besselink MG, van Santvoort HC, van Brunschot S et al.; Dutch Pancreatitis Study Group. Same-admission versus interval cholecystectomy for mild gallstone pancreatitis (PONCHO): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2015; 386:1261 – 1268.
  5. Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (2015) Pathway for management of acute gallstone disease
  6. Gutt CN, Encke J, Köninger J, Harnoss JC, Weigand K, Kipfmüller K et al. Acute cholecystitis: early versus delayed cholecystectomy, a multicenter randomized trial (ACDC study, NCT00447304). Ann Surg 2013; 258: 385–393.
  7. Ozardes A, Tokac M, dumlu EG, bozkurt B, ciftci B, yetisir F, kilic M. Early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis: a prospective, randomise study. INt surg 2014;99: 56-61.
  8. Tokyo Guidelines 2018: surgical management of acute cholecystitis: safe steps in laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis. November 2017.

How up to date is this information?

Last revised December 2023


December 2023 - Coding update. August 2022 - Coding updated