The saying used to be, “You can get any paper published if you have enough stamps.” Now with electronic submission, you don’t even need the stamps.

A retrospective study comparing single-incision laparoscopic cholecystectomy (SILC) to standard 4-port laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) concluded that “SILC showed no disadvantage concerning risk profiles, operative times or hospital stay.” [Emphasis added]

According to the abstract, 81.7% of the 115 SILC patients had elective surgery vs. 55.5% of the 344 in the LC group. The SILC cohort experienced significantly shorter operative times (70 ± 31 vs. LC: 80 ± 27 minutes) and hospital lengths of stay (3.02 ± 1.4 vs. LC: 4.6 ± 2.8 days), p < 0.001 for both. LC was converted to open surgery in 21 cases vs. none of the SILCs, p= 0.003. Rates of bile leak and incisional hernia did not differ.

Do you see any problems with this study? I do.

The groups were not really comparable because the LC group underwent more emergency operations. That difference is significant with a p value of 0.007—conveniently omitted from the abstract. The preponderance of elective cases likely accounts for the SILC group’s shorter operative duration, lower rate of conversion to open, and shorter length of stay. The SILC patients were also a mean of 10 years younger.

The average operative time for the LC patients, 80 minutes, is much longer than the 40 to 45 minutes reported in most other recent series such as this one. In statistical circles, measuring one’s pet theory against a false comparator is known as setting up a “straw man.” I’ve written about this before.

Complication rates did not differ between the two procedures, but the duration of patient follow-up was not mentioned. Several papers have found a significant increase in incisional hernias after SILC.

This study was done in Germany, where the 3- and 4-day hospital lengths of stay for both types of surgery are far longer than those seen in the United States where about 90% of patients go home within 24 hours of laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

The authors summarized by saying that “SILC can be regarded as a natural evolution in the era of minimally invasive surgery.”

On the other hand, “No disadvantage” is another way of saying, “No advantage.”

This paper didn’t convince me about the value of SILC. How about you?

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at and tweets as @SkepticScalpel. His blog averages over 1400 page views per day, and he has over 10,300 followers on Twitter.