A stratified intraoperative surgical strategy is mandatory during laparoscopic common bile duct exploration for common bile duct stones. Lessons and limits from an initial experience of 92 patients

J F Gigot, B Navez, J Etienne, E Cambier, P Jadoul, P Guiot, P J Kestens
Surgical Endoscopy 1997, 11 (7): 722-8

BACKGROUND: Open exploration and endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES) remain the preferred treatment of common bile duct stones (CBDS). The recent spread of laparoscopy has worsened the dilemna of choosing between surgical and endoscopic treatment of CBDS. The aim of this study was to critically evaluate the results of our preliminary experience with laparoscopic common bile duct exploration (CBDE) for CBDS.

METHODS: Ninety-two consecutive patients were prospectively submitted to laparoscopic CBDE. Surgical strategy included an initial transcystic approach or laparoscopic choledochotomy. Failure of stone clearance was managed by conversion to open CBDE or by postoperative ES. Electrohydraulic lithotripsy and papillary balloon dilatation were selectively used. Stone clearance was assessed by choledochoscopy and control cholangiography.

RESULTS: The overall laparoscopic stone clearance in this series was 84% (transcystic route 63% and choledochotomy 93%). Conversion to laparotomy was mandatory in 12% of the patients because of incomplete stone clearance and in 5% because of intraoperative complications. Postoperative ES was required in 4% of the patients, giving an overall surgical success rate of 96%. When indicated (small and limited number of stones located below the cysticocholedochal junction, with a dilated and patent cystic duct) the transcystic route had the lower success rate, the higher complication rate, and the shorter operative time and postoperative hospital stay. When indicated (accessible and dilated common bile duct over 7 mm), laparoscopic choledochotomy had the higher success rate, the lower complication rate, the longer operative time, and the longer postoperative hospital stay, which is related to associated external biliary drainage. The hospital mortality included two high-risk patients (2%) and the complications rate was 15%.

CONCLUSIONS: Laparoscopic CBDE is safe in selected patients. A stratified intraoperative surgical strategy is mandatory in deciding between a transcystic route and choledochotomy with specific indications for each approach. When feasible, laparoscopic choledochotomy is more efficient and safe than the transcystic route, but it is associated with a longer postoperative hospital stay, which is due to external biliary drainage.

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