Intra-thoracic migration of a gallstone and its thoracoscopic management

  • Naveen Verma
  • Amol Bhanushali
  • Akshay Chitnis
  • Dhiraj Premchandani
  • Deepraj BhandarkarEmail author
Video Article


Intra-thoracic migration of a gallstone spilled during laparoscopic cholecystectomy is an extremely rare complication. This is a video documenting the successful thoracoscopic management of a patient who presented with this entity.


Spilled gallstone Thoracoscopy Video-assisted thoracic surgery 

The incidence of perforation of the gallbladder during laparoscopic cholecystectomy varies between 1.4 and 40% and that of subsequent spillage of gallstones between 2.3 and 40% [1]. Intra-thoracic migration of spilled gallstones is a rare complication. It is thought to result from a subphrenic abscess that leads to a fistulous tract through the diaphragm into the pleural cavity [2].

A 48-year-old woman who had undergone a laparoscopic cholecystectomy 2 years previously presented with recurrent episodes of hemoptysis starting 6 months after surgery. Initial imaging done elsewhere had suggested a bleeding vascular malformation in the right lower lobe, and this was treated with an inferior phrenic artery embolization. A repeat computerized tomographic angiogram performed upon the recurrence of the hemoptysis a month after the embolization revealed a well-defined, hyperdense shadow within consolidated right lower lobe suggestive of a gallstone (Video 1). At thoracoscopy performed under single-lung ventilation using three ports (12 mm, 10 mm, and 5 mm); dense adhesions were observed between the right lower lobe and the diaphragm. After freeing up, a wedge of the adherent portion of the lung was resected using endoscopic staplers. A small portion of the diaphragm that appeared unhealthy was also excised and the resultant defect closed with non-absorbable sutures. The specimen was extracted in a plastic bag and, upon slicing, revealed a large pigmented gallstone (Video 1). An intercostal drainage tube was inserted and placed on a negative suction drainage. This allowed the lung to expand rapidly and the patient to be discharged on 3rd postoperative day. She remains well 2 years later.

This case highlights the importance of (a) meticulous retrieval of all spilled gallstones, (b) maintaining a high index of suspicion for the possibility of this rare complication in patients presenting with right pleuro-pulmonary complications following laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and (c) thoracoscopy as a valid minimal access therapeutic option.


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material


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  1. 1.
    Nooghabi AJ, Hassanpour M, Jangjoo A. Consequences of lost gallstones during laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a review article. Surg Laparosc Endosc Percutan Tech. 2016;26:183–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Quail JF, Soballe PW, Gramins DL. Thoracic gallstones: a delayed complication of laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Surg Infect. 2014;15:69–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Indian Association of Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgeons 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Minimal Access SurgeryHinduja HospitalMumbaiIndia
  2. 2.Department of Thoracic SurgeryHinduja HospitalMumbaiIndia

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