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Tuberculosis of the bile duct: a rare cause of obstructive jaundice.

Tuberculosis of the bile duct is extremely rare. Patients with this condition usually present with a protracted illness and obstructive jaundice, which may be confused with hepatobiliary malignancies. A retrospective review of hospital records of patients who presented with tuberculosis of the bile duct between January 1986 and December 1996 was undertaken, and data were obtained concerning clinical presentation, investigations, treatment, and follow-up. Four patients (one man and three women) with a mean age of 44.8 years had tuberculosis of the bile duct. Diagnostic imaging techniques showed bile duct dilation in all four patients. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) showed a stricture in the proximal common bile duct (CBD) in one patient, a stricture in the distal CBD in one patient, a stricture in the common hepatic duct (CHD) in one patient, and multiple strictures in the CHD and left intrahepatic duct in one patient. Bile cytology and fine-needle aspiration identified correctly the diagnosis in each patient. Two patients underwent laparotomy with the initial suspicion of cholangiocarcinoma; the correct diagnosis was made based on frozen sections taken intraoperatively. One patient was treated with endoscopic stenting and three patients underwent laparotomy for bile duct obstruction. All patients received antituberculous therapy. There were no deaths; all patients remained healthy at a mean follow-up of 36.5 months. It is important to obtain a tissue diagnosis in all patients with obstructive jaundice to avoid missing this rare but curable disease. The treatment of tuberculosis of the bile duct involves relief of the bile duct obstruction and antituberculous therapy.

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