The evaluation and management of known or suspected stones of the common bile duct in the era of minimal access surgery

I M Leitman, M L Fisher, M J McKinley, R Rothman, R J Ward, D S Reiner, A J Tortolani
Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics 1993, 176 (6): 527-33
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) has rapidly become the procedure of choice for symptomatic cholelithiasis. The perioperative diagnosis and modern treatment of suspected stones of the common bile duct (CBD) remains controversial. A database of 573 patients undergoing LC was compiled during an 11 month period. Sixty-seven patients (47 females, 20 males) (13 percent) were suspected of having CBD stones based upon clinical, laboratory and roentgenographic evidence. Fifty-two patients underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ER-CP) (45 preoperative and seven postoperative). Seventeen patients were studied with intraoperative cholangiogram (IOC). The indications for cholangiography (either ERCP or IOC) included pancreatitis (group 1), clinical history suggestive of CBD stones, but normal preoperative liver function tests (LFT) (group 2), cholangitis (group 3), grossly abnormal LFT (group 4) and dilated CBD (greater than 7 millimeters on sonogram) (group 5). The incidence of CBD stones was three of 14 (21 percent) in group 1, six of 20 (30 percent) in group 2, two of three (67 percent) in group 3, 16 of 26 (62 percent) in group 4 and two of four (50 percent) in group 5. Overall, 29 patients (23 females and six males) had stones retrieved from the CBD. Of the 52 ERCP, 20 endoscopic sphincterotomies were performed for documented CBD stones. Of the group that had pre-LC ERCP, three (6 percent) ultimately required an open procedure. There were three instances of post-ERCP pancreatitis (6 percent) and ERCP was not able to opacify or clear the CBD in four instances. Seven patients had postoperative ERCP with successful retrieval of retained CBD stones (100 percent). Of the 17 IOC, eight were positive--two patients underwent laparoscopic clearance of the CBD and six required conversion to an open procedure. There were no deaths or extensive complications. Total and direct bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase and serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase were independently related to the presence of a CBD stone, while demographic data, past medical history, preoperative symptoms, leukocyte count, vital signs, amylase, serum glutamic-oxalacetic transaminase nuclear scintigraphic visualization of the duodenum or size of CBD on sonography, were not. No patient with biliary pancreatitis had CBD stones without abnormalities in the LFT or the preoperative sonogram. ERCP is a useful technique to clear the CBD pre-LC. However, ERCP in patients with biliary pancreatitis, but otherwise normal preoperative tests, has a low yield. In this group of patients, IOC is an appropriate alternative to pre-LC ERCP.

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