Risk of developing gallbladder cancer in patients with gallbladder polyps detected on trans-abdominal ultrasound: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Kieran G Foley, Zena Riddell, Bernadette Coles, S Ashley Roberts, Brian H Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To estimate the risk of malignancy in gallbladder polyps of incremental sizes detected during trans-abdominal ultrasound (TAUS).

Methods: We searched databases including MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane Library for eligible studies recording the polyp size from which gallbladder malignancy developed, confirmed following cholecystectomy, or by subsequent follow-up. Primary outcome was the risk of gallbladder cancer in patients with polyps. Secondary outcome was the effect of polyp size as a prognostic factor for cancer. Risk of bias was assessed using the Quality in Prognostic Factor Studies (QUIPS) tool. Bayesian meta-analysis estimated the median cancer risk according to polyp size. This study is registered with PROSPERO (blinded).

Results: 82 studies published since 1990 reported primary data for 67,837 patients. 67,774 gallbladder polyps and 889 cancers were reported. The cumulative median cancer risk of a polyp measuring 10 mm or less was 0.60% (99% credible range 0.30–1.16%). Substantial heterogeneity existed between studies (I2 = 99.95%, 95% credible interval 99.86–99.98%). Risk of bias was generally high and overall confidence in evidence was low. Thirteen studies (15.6%) were graded with very low certainty, 56 studies (68.3%) with low certainty, and 13 studies (15.6%) with moderate certainty. In studies considered moderate quality, TAUS monitoring detected 4.6 cancers per 10,000 patients with polyps less than 10 mm.

Conclusions: Malignant risk in gallbladder polyps is low, particularly in polyps less than 10 mm, however the data is heterogenous and generally low quality. International guidelines, which have not previously modelled size data, should be informed by these findings.

Advances in knowledge: This large systematic review and meta-analysis has shown that the mean cumulative risk of small gallbladder polyps is low, but heterogeneity and missing data in larger polyp sizes (>10 mm) means the risk is uncertain and may be higher than estimated.

Studies considered to have better methodological quality suggest that previous estimates of risk are likely to be inflated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Radiology
Early online date12 Jul 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jul 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Risk of developing gallbladder cancer in patients with gallbladder polyps detected on trans-abdominal ultrasound: a systematic review and meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this