Open Access
Open Peer Review

This article has Open Peer Review reports available.

How does Open Peer Review work?

Delayed presentation of an isolated gallbladder rupture following blunt abdominal trauma: a case report

  • Jonathan Bainbridge1,
  • Hossam Shaaban1, 2Email author,
  • Nick Kenefick1 and
  • Christopher P. Armstrong1
Journal of Medical Case Reports20071:52

https://doi.org/10.1186/1752-1947-1-52

Received: 30 March 2007

Accepted: 16 July 2007

Published: 16 July 2007

Abstract

Background

Blunt injuries to the gallbladder occur rarely, and the incidence of isolated damage to the gallbladder is even smaller. We report a case of delayed presentation of isolated rupture of the gallbladder following blunt trauma to the abdomen.

Case presentation

A 65 year old lady presented through the Emergency Department with a 1 week history of blunt trauma to her abdomen. She complained of continued epigastric pain which radiated through to her back and right upper quadrant. On presentation, the patient had a low grade temperature, hypotension and mild tachycardia. Abdominal examination revealed right upper quadrant tenderness with no localised peritonism. C-reactive protein was 451. An abdominal CT showed a moderate amount of ascitic fluid in the perihepatic space. The patient underwent a laparotomy, which revealed a ruptured gallbladder with free bile. There was no evidence of any associated injuries to the surrounding organs. Partial cholecystectomy was done in view of the friable nature of the gallbladder. Post operatively, a persistent bile leak was managed successfully with endoscopic sphincterotomy and stenting.

Conclusion

Rupture of the gallbladder due to blunt injuries to the abdomen occurs from time to time and may constitute a diagnostic challenge especially with delayed presentation. Partial cholecystectomy is a safe option in cases where friability of the wall renders formal cholecystectomy inadvisable. Endoscopic sphincterotomy and stenting is a safe and effective treatment for persistent post operative bile leaks.

Background

Blunt injuries to the gallbladder occur rarely, and the incidence of isolated damage to the gallbladder is even smaller [13]. The delay in presentation of the injury is not unusual. Significant morbidity or even mortality can result from delay in diagnosis, which can easily occur due to both rarity of the condition and low amplitude of symptoms. It is very important to bear in mind the possibility of such injury when confronted with a case of upper abdominal pain following blunt abdominal trauma. We report a case of delayed presentation of isolated rupture of the gallbladder following blunt trauma to the abdomen. A literature review on this subject is also provided.

Case presentation

A 65 year old lady presented through the Emergency Department with a 1 week history of abdominal pain after being knocked down by a horse she was holding, which resulted in the patient falling onto a stony path and hitting the right side of her abdomen. She complained of continued epigastric pain following the incident, which radiated through to her back and right upper quadrant.

On examination the patient had a low grade temperature (37.5°C) and was hypotensive at 96/61 mmHg, with a pulse rate of 96. Abdominal examination revealed right upper quadrant tenderness with no localised peritonism. Bloods showed a normal full blood count, lipase and liver function but did however reveal a C-reactive protein of 451. Chest and abdominal radiographs were normal with no signs of free air. An abdominal computed tomogram (CT) was performed which showed a moderate amount of ascitic fluid in the perihepatic space, around the porta hepatis and extending down to the pelvis.

The patient underwent a laparotomy, which revealed a ruptured gallbladder with free bile. There was no evidence of any associated injuries to the surrounding organs. Due to the friable nature of the gallbladder and associated inflammation cholecystectomy would have been extremely difficult. Therefore the decision was made to perform a partial cholecystectomy, below the level of the tear, and drainage.

Unfortunately the drain came out unintentionally 3 days after the operation having drained almost 200 mls of bile in that period. There was continued leakage of bile through the drain site increasing in rate to approximately 300 mls per day for the next 48 hours. An abdominal ultrasound at the time showed a continued fluid collection in the pelvis.

Due to the continued bilious drainage the patient underwent an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) on day 6 post-op. During this procedure a sphincterotomy was performed and a pig-tail stent inserted to allow drainage of the gallbladder. Following this intervention the patient's post-op course was unremarkable apart from a small wound infection. She was eventually discharged home 26 days after admission and the stent was removed 2 months later.

Discussion

Blunt injuries to the gallbladder occur rarely, ranging from 1.9%, as reported by Penn [4], to 2.1% in the series of patients examined by Soderstrom et al [5]. The incidence of isolated damage to the gallbladder is even smaller, as shown in Soderstrom's review whereby only 5 out 30 cases of gall bladder injuries were isolated. This was also demonstrated by Wiener et al [6], showing that only half of the cases of gallbladder injury were in isolation.

The majority of gallbladder injuries occur following motor vehicle incidents [57], significant falls and direct blows in sport e.g. soccer [8], wrestling [9] and rugby [10]. Although there has been an isolated case of injury secondary to a bull head-butting a patients' abdomen [6], there are no identifiable cases of damage occurring with this mechanism of injury. It should also be noted that the patient had eaten in the period preceding the trauma, and therefore the gallbladder was not enlarged in its fasted state. Both the degree of trauma and the absence of any collateral damage make this a unique case to report.

The delay in presentation of the injury is not unusual. Damage to a non-infected gallbladder can cause leakage of sterile bile into the abdomen. This in itself does not present acutely and such injuries can take up to six weeks to become apparent [6, 11]. The majority of these cases will be diagnosed peri-operatively, as with our case, although a few cases have demonstrated gallbladder damage using pre-operative computerised tomography [10].

The recommended treatment of gallbladder rupture and major tears is cholecystectomy [5, 6, 11]. In this case the delayed nature of the presentation resulted in an extremely friable gallbladder, which was not amenable to a total cholecystectomy. This resulted in a partial cholecystectomy being performed, also being a recognised treatment option in such cases. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is advocated to be a safe and effective procedure in the diagnosis and management of traumatic gall bladder rupture [1]. In our case, however, due to uncertainty of the diagnosis, an exploratory laparotomy was elected as the safest option.

Endoscopic procedures such as sphincterotomy and temporary biliary stenting are well known for their safety and efficacy in the management of persistent biliary leakage post hepatobiliary surgery [12, 13]. These procedures act by lowering the pressure at the sphincter of Oddi. This encourages preferential drainage of bile to the duodenum rather than leaking into the peritoneal cavity.

Conclusion

Rupture of the gallbladder due to blunt injuries to the abdomen occurs from time to time and may constitute a diagnostic challenge especially with delayed presentation. Partial cholecystectomy is a safe option in cases where inflammation and friability of the wall render formal cholecystectomy inadvisable. Endoscopic sphincterotomy and stenting is a safe and effective treatment for persistent post operative bile leaks.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

Full informed and written consent has been obtained from the patient for submission of this manuscript to be published.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Surgery, North Bristol NHS Trust
(2)
Clinical Fellow Upper GI Surgery, Southmead Hospital

References

  1. Liess BD, Awad ZT, Eubanks WS: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy for isolated traumatic rupture of the gallbladder following blunt abdominal injury. J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A. 2006, 16 (6): 623-5. 10.1089/lap.2006.16.623.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Salzman S, Lutfi R, Fishman D, Doherty J, Merlotti G: Traumatic rupture of the gallbladder. J Trauma. 2006, 61 (2): 454-6.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Carrillo EH, Lottenberg L, Saridakis A: Blunt traumatic injury of the gallbladder. J Trauma. 2004, 57 (2): 408-9.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Penn I: Injuries of the gallbladder. Br J Surg. 1962, 49: 636-10.1002/bjs.18004921816.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Soderstrom CA, Maekawa K, DuPriest RW, Cowley RA: Gallbladder injuries resulting from blunt abdominal trauma. Ann Surg. 1981, 193: 60-6. 10.1097/00000658-198101000-00010.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Wiener I, Watson LC, Wolma FJ: Perforation of the gallbladder due to blunt abdominal trauma. Arch surg. 1982, 117: 805-7.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Greenwald G, Stine RJ, Larson RE: Perforation of the gallbladder following blunt abdominal trauma. Ann Emerg Med. 1987, 16 (4): 452-4. 10.1016/S0196-0644(87)80371-2.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Johnson WR, Harris P: Isolated gallbladder injury secondary to blunt trauma: case report. Aust N Z J Surg. 1982, 52: 495-6.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Wilton PW, Fulco J, O-Leary J, Lee JT: Body slam is no sham. N Engl J Med. 1985, 313: 188-9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Kohler R, Millin R, Bonner B, Louw A: Laparoscopic treatment of an isolated gallbladder rupture following blunt abdominal trauma in a schoolboy rugby player. Br J Sports Med. 2002, 36: 378-379. 10.1136/bjsm.36.5.378.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Sharma O: Blunt gallbladder injuries: Presentation of twenty-two cases with review of the literature. J Trauma. 1995, 39: 576-80.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Lubezky N, Konikoff FM, Rosin D, Carmon E, Kluger Y, Ben-Haim M: Endoscopic sphincterotomy and temporary internal stenting for bile leaks following complex hepatic trauma. Br J Surg. 2006, 93 (1): 78-81. 10.1002/bjs.5195.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Christoforidis E, Goulimaris I, Tsalis K, Kanellos I, Demetriades H, Betsis D: The endoscopic management of persistent bile leakage after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Surg Endosc. 2002, 16 (5): 843-6. 10.1007/s00464-001-9091-9. Epub 2002 Feb 8View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright

© Bainbridge et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Advertisement