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Am J Surg. 1991 Apr;161(4):454-8.

Role of radiation after operative palliation in cancer of the proximal bile ducts.

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  • 1Department of General Surgery, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio 44195-5241.


Cancer of the proximal bile ducts continues to pose a formidable problem to even the most experienced biliary surgeon. From 1977 through 1985, 51 patients with histologically confirmed proximal bile duct cancers underwent surgical treatment. The lesion was confined to the hilar region in 30 patients; there was extensive hepatic infiltration or distant metastatic disease in 21 patients. One patient underwent resection. Biopsy only was performed in six patients. In the remaining 44 patients, transtumoral dilation and intubation were performed. These 44 patients were further analyzed with regard to how survival was affected by the presence of metastatic disease and by the adjunctive use of radiation therapy. Mean survival in those patients with metastatic disease (n = 16) was 6.1 months, and survival was not improved by the use of postoperative radiation. In the absence of metastatic or advanced local disease, however, the addition of external beam radiation did significantly extend the mean survival from 4.5 to 12.2 months and the median survival from 2.2 to 12.2 months. The operative mortality for the series was 14% and postoperative complications occurred in 18 patients. These findings suggest that the addition of external beam radiation improves survival in patients undergoing palliative treatment of hilar tumors. Further confirmation of the value of radiation awaits prospective investigation.

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