Background: The HARMONIC SCALPEL (H) is an advanced ultrasonic cutting and coagulating surgical device with important clinical advantages, such as: reduced ligature demand; greater precision due to minimal lateral thermal tissue damage; minimal smoke production; absence of electric corrents running through the patient. However, there are no prospective RCTs demonstrating the advantages of H compared to the conventional monopolar diathermy (MD) during laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) in cases of acute cholecystitis (AC).Methods: This study was a prospective, single-center, randomized trial (Trial Registration Number: NCT00746850) designed to investigate whether the use of H can reduce the incidence of intra-operative conversion during LC in cases of AC, compared to the use of MD. Patients were divided into two groups: both groups underwent early LC, within 72 hours of diagnosis, using H and MD respectively (H = experimental/study group, MD = control group). The study was designed and conducted in accordance with the regulations of Good Clinical Practice.Results: 42 patients were randomly assigned the use of H (21 patients) or MD (21 patients) during LC. The two groups were comparable in terms of basic patient characteristics. Mean operating time in the H group was 101.3 minutes compared to 106.4 minutes in the control group (p=ns); overall blood loss was significantly lower in the H group. Conversion rate was 4.7% for the H group, which was significantly lower than the 33% conversion rate for the control group (p<0.05). Post-operative morbidity rates differed slightly: 19% and 23% in the H and control groups, respectively (p=ns). Average post-operative hospitalization lasted 5.2 days in the H group compared to 5.4 days in the control group (p=ns).Conclusions: The use of H appears to correlate with reduced rates of laparoscopic-open conversion. Given this evidence, H may be more suitable than MD for technically demanding cases of AC.
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