The Mirizzi syndrome is often undiagnosed before surgery and can carry a high risk of iatrogenic damage to the common bile duct when encountered during open or, especially, laparoscopic surgery. Endoscopic management has recently been reported, but this treatment can be performed only when there is a high index of suspicion based on clinical criteria that the condition is present and therefore suggests the indication for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This is not always the case. Consequently, in a considerable percentage of patients, the syndrome is discovered only after the bile ducts have been damaged during surgery. Three cases of Mirizzi's syndrome were observed in our experience of 896 laparoscopic cholecystectomies (0.3%). All patients were without typical symptoms, and the syndrome was unsuspected in spite of preoperative intravenous cholangiography. All patients required conversion to an open procedure, with two injuries of the common bile duct (a complete transection and a tear) being promptly repaired. We conclude that when this syndrome is suspected or found during surgery, the surgeon should follow these guidelines: (1) perform intraoperative cholangiography when possible, even through the gallbladder wall; and (2) dissect the gallbladder from above and, if necessary, open it to extract the stone. Dissection of Calot's triangle should never be attempted. Great expertise is required to complete the operation laparoscopically. The reported cases in the literature refer to a high percentage of conversion, underlining the technical difficulties and making this syndrome, when undiagnosed and unsuspected, a real challenge for laparoscopic surgeons.
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