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J Gastrointest Surg. 2009 Apr;13(4):814-20. doi: 10.1007/s11605-008-0618-4. Epub 2008 Aug 23.

Preoperative biliary drainage in patients with obstructive jaundice: history and current status.

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Department of Surgery, Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Preoperative biliary drainage (PBD) has been introduced to improve outcome after surgery in patients suffering from obstructive jaundice due to a potentially resectable proximal or distal bile duct/pancreatic head lesion. In experimental models, PBD is almost exclusively associated with beneficial results: improved liver function and nutritional status; reduction of systemic endotoxemia; cytokine release; and, as a result, an improved immune response. Mortality was significantly reduced in these animal models. Human studies show conflicting results.


For distal obstruction, currently the "best-evidence" available clearly shows that routine PBD does not yield the appreciated improvement in postoperative morbidity and mortality in patients undergoing resection. Moreover, PBD harbors its own complications. However, most of the available data are outdated or suffer from methodological deficits.


The highest level of evidence for PBD to be performed in proximal obstruction, as well as over the preferred mode, is lacking but, nevertheless, assimilated in the treatment algorithm for many centers. Logistics and waiting lists, although sometimes inevitable, could be factors that might influence the decision to opt for PBD, as well as an extended diagnostic workup with laparoscopy (on indication) or scheduled preoperative chemotherapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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