Laparoscopic exploration of common bile duct in difficult choledocholithiasis

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This review investigated the role played by laparoscopic exploration of the common bile duct (LECBD) in the management of difficult choledocholithiasis.


This retrospective study reviewed a prospective database of LECBD for difficult choledocholithiasis during the period 1995 to 2003.


Of the 97 LECBDs performed in the authors' center from 1995 to 2003, 25 were performed for difficult choledocholithiasis. Difficult choledocholithiasis was defined as failure of endoscopic stone retrieval for the following reasons: access and cannulation difficulty, the difficult nature of common bile duct (CBD) stones, and the presence of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)-related complications. There were seven unsuccessful cannulations because of previous gastrectomy (n = 5) and periampullary diverticulum (n = 2). Among the 18 patients with failed endoscopic extraction, there were 10 impacted stones, 2 incomplete stone clearances after multiple attempts, 2 type 2 Mirizzi syndromes, 1 proximal stent migration, 1 repeated post-ERCP pancreatitis, 1 situs inversus, and 1 stricture at the distal common bile duct. There were 14 male and 11 female patients with a mean age of 67.8 ± 15 years. Initial presentations included cholangitis (n = 14, 56%), biliary colic (n = 3, 12%), jaundice/deranged liver function (n = 5, 20%), cholecystitis (n = 2, 8%), and pancreatitis (n = 1, 4%). Regarding the approach for LECBD, there were 2 transcystic duct explorations and 23 choledochotomies. The mean operative time was 149.4 ± 49.3 min, and there were three conversions (12%). The stone clearance rate was 100%, and no recurrence was detected during a mean follow-up period of 16.8 months. Five complications were encountered, which included bile leak (3 patients) and wound infection (2 patients). When the results were compared with the remaining 72 LECBDs for nondifficult stones during the same period, the complication rate, conversion rate, and rate of residual stones were similar despite a longer operation time (149.4 ± 49.4 min vs 121.6 ± 50.5 min).


When ERCP is impossible or stone retrieval is incomplete, LECBD is the solution to difficult CBD stones.

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