Sixteen critically ill patients underwent percutaneous cholecystostomy because of suspected acute cholecystitis. The procedure was technically successful, although 11 of 16 patients died subsequently because of various complications of their underlying primary disorders. We reviewed this series to reassess the value of percutaneous cholecystostomy. Four of 11 patients with definite acute cholecystitis (group 1) were cured by this technique, but three required surgery because of gallbladder wall necrosis. Two of these were among four cases which had demonstrated pericholecystic fluid collections on computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound of the abdomen. There were also five patients (group 2) in whom acute cholecystitis or its relationship to patients' symptoms were not fully determined, and four of them did not improve after percutaneous cholecystostomy. We conclude that this technique has a lower success rate in critically ill patients than reported previously.