Introduction Conventional endoscopic duct clearance may not be possible in up to 10%–15% of common bile duct stones (CBDS). Sphincterotomy and biliary drainage by endoprosthesis have for many years been the mainstay of management in irretrievable stones. Recent years have seen the advent of sphincteroplasty or cholangioscopically-guided electrohydraulic lithotripsy (EHL) permitting duct clearance in majority of cases. However, when bile duct clearance is not possible, options include long-term stenting followed by elective stent exchange (ESE) 6–12 monthly or permanent stent insertion (PSI) in selected cases, but it is not clear which management strategy among ESE and PSI is preferable.
Methods and aims A retrospective review of all patients in Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who underwent plastic stent insertion for biliary access for difficult CBDS from January 2006 to December 2011 was undertaken. Adult patients with irretrievable CBDS who had plastic stent insertions throughout the follow-up period were included. Patients who underwent PSI and ESE annually were retrospectively reviewed to determine the long-term outcomes. A detailed systematic review was also performed, examining the outcomes of CBDS managed with stents.
Results During the study period, 674 patients underwent 1769 biliary-stent-related procedures; of which, 246 patients met our inclusion criteria. 201 patients had subsequent duct clearance. 45 patients were, therefore, included in the final analysis, 28 of whom underwent annual ESEs and 17 PSIs. Patients in the PSI group had higher American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) scores compared with the ESE group. In the PSI group, 9/17 patients presented acutely with blocked stents, 5 of whom presented within 12 months. 2/9 patients were severely ill and died within a fortnight following the repeat endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). In the ESE group, 4/28 patients had duct clearance in subsequent ERCPs, 1/28 patient presented with a blocked stent, and no biliary-related deaths were observed. The mean numbers of ERCPs performed were 0.52 and 1.95 in the PSI and ESE groups, respectively.
Conclusions Over 50% of patients treated with long-term stenting re-presented acutely with stent blockage, though many of these were before 12 months, meaning planned stent exchange would not have affected the outcome. Duct clearance using all possible modalities is the preferred option, but where not possible, management with biliary stenting either with elective exchange or permanent stenting remains a possibility for carefully selected patients, though maybe best suited to those with limited life expectancy.
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