Assessing Quality of Precut Sphincterotomy in Patients With Difficult Biliary Access: An Updated Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

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It is generally accepted that precut sphincterotomy during endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) increases the risk of pancreatitis. However, patients with difficult biliary access may be different. We implemented a meta-analysis to explore the effects of early and delayed precut sphincterotomy on post-ERCP pancreatitis in patients with difficult biliary access.


We searched studies in PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Randomized Controlled Trials for meeting requirement in which precut sphincterotomy was compared with persistent standard cannulation during ERCP. The primary outcomes included the overall cannulation success rate and the incidence of post-ERCP pancreatitis. The secondary outcomes included primary cannulation success and the overall complication rate.


Six studies (898 patients) were included. The present meta-analysis found no significant difference in overall cannulation success rate and overall complication rate between early precut sphincterotomy and persistent standard cannulation. However, early precut sphincterotomy not only increased the primary cannulation success rate [Mantel Haenszel test relative risk, 1.87; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.15-3.04] but also decreased the overall risk of pancreatitis (Peto odds ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.30-0.80). For persistent standard cannulation, no significant difference was observed in the pancreatitis rate between no salvage precut and delayed salvage precut sphincterotomy (Peto odds ratio, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.49-1.85).


Compared with persistent standard cannulation, an early precut sphincterotomy exhibited a reduced risk of pancreatitis. In addition, a delayed precut sphincterotomy after persistent attempts did not increase the occurrence of pancreatitis and this is the first meta-analysis to present this conclusion.

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