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Gut. 1997 Oct;41(4):433-5.

Biliary tract diseases in the elderly: management and outcomes.

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Endoscopy Section, Beth Israel Medical Center North Division, New York, New York 10128, USA.


Elderly people commonly present with biliary tract disease. Gallstone disease is an important cause of recurrent abdominal symptoms, and we advocate an aggressive approach in stable patients not at risk to improve the quality of their lives. Choledocholithiasis is optimally treated by ERCP (98% success) even in patients who are at great risk. Endoscopic intervention often obviates the need for emergency biliary tract surgery in the elderly, is better tolerated, and is associated with significantly less risk and a lower mortality. In contrast, emergency surgery in the elderly is poorly tolerated. Even cholecystitis and biliary pancreatitis (not discussed here) are amenable to endoscopic treatment. Malignant biliary obstruction should not and cannot be treated as aggressively as benign disorders affecting the biliary tree as the long term outlook is poor. Endoscopic palliation usually suffices in maximising treatment and improving the patient's quality of life with few associated complications or postprocedural machinations (drainage bags or tubes). The afflicted population in general and the elderly in particular benefit from minimally invasive endoscopic decompression techniques.

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