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Am J Gastroenterol. 1995 Feb;90(2):233-8.

Endoscopic sphincterotomy and biliary drainage in patients with cholangitis due to common bile duct stones.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, University Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



In a prospective study, we analyzed 95 consecutive patients undergoing endoscopic papillotomy (EP) for cholangitis due to common bile duct (CBD) stones; our purpose was to evaluate the risk factors influencing the complication rate due to cholangitis, with special attention to the clinical history.


Patients with previous gastric surgery or EP were excluded. Complications subsequent to sphincterotomy were recorded over a 3-month period.


In patients with persistent cholangitis before EP, the risk for complications due to cholangitis increased with increasing delay between the onset of cholangitis and biliary drainage. In patients with a good response to antibiotics before EP, the delay in biliary drainage did not influence the risk of complications. After complete CBD stone removal, the morbidity (42% vs. 4%, p = 0.001) and the mortality (8% vs. 0%, NS) due to cholangitis were much higher in 12 patients with progressive cholangitis for > 3 days before biliary drainage, compared with 73 cases who had experienced a good response to antibiotics before EP and/or early drainage (< 3 days) after the onset of cholangitis. Two patients with advanced cholangitis and septic shock at the time of EP died < 12 h after completed sphincterotomy with CBD stone removal. Three patients with retained CBD stones and failed biliary drainage after EP experienced disastrous morbidity (100% vs. 9%, p < 0.01) and mortality (67% vs. 1%, p < 0.01) due to cholangitis, compared with 85 patients without retained CBD stone(s).


We recommend emergency biliary drainage in all patients presenting with calculous cholangitis who are severely ill with continuous fever for several days. Emergency nasobiliary drainage without EP or after a limited EP may be a safer treatment in patients with (impending) septic shock. We believe that a more conservative approach is justified in patients presenting with symptoms of mild cholangitis, restricting emergency biliary drainage for those who do not respond rapidly (< 24 h) to antibiotics. Further emergency surgical or percutaneous biliary drainage should be performed immediately on patients in whom CBD stones are retained, after EP and drainage fails, especially if a stone is left impacted distally.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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