Management of Common Bile Duct (CBD) Stones at Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy


South West Sydney Local Health District






Procedure: Transcystic Stenting (Facilitated ERCP)

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


This study is designed to assess whether a new technique called facilitated endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is or is not superior to conventional ERCP for removing stones found in the bile duct at the time of laparoscopic cholecystectomy. ERCP is an endoscopic procedure used to facilitate the radiological examination and subsequent manipulation of the common bile duct (eg. opening it up, which is called sphincterotomy). Both facilitated and conventional ERCP are performed as a separate procedure after the initial gallbladder surgery. This is a comparative study of these two techniques in a randomised clinical trial. The aim of this randomised clinical trial is to enable surgeons to decide whether placement of a plastic stent at the time of laparoscopic cholecystectomy will improve the success rate and safety of subsequent ERCP and sphincterotomy.

Full description

Symptomatic gallstone disease is common. In the year July 2001-2002, laparoscopic cholecystectomy was performed on 5,235 patients in NSW public hospitals. Up to 18% of patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy for gallstones may have concomitant common bile duct stones (choledocholithiasis). Twenty-five percent of bile duct stones are completely unsuspected. Therefore the optimal management of bile duct stones is a significant issue for all general surgeons who perform this very common operation. Yet, the management of these patients in the laparoscopic era remains contentious. Prior to the laparoscopic era cholecystectomy patients with bile duct stones were managed surgically during open cholecystectomy (OC), with direct exploration of their common bile duct (choledochotomy). However, open surgical bile duct exploration waned in popularity and progressively stones were dealt with endoscopically, either pre or post cholecystectomy. As laparoscopic technology advances, simultaneous clearance of the bile duct at the time of laparoscopic cholecystectomy is regaining popularity. Some surgeons elect to remove bile duct stones at the index operation through the cystic duct. This approach has a success rate of between 75 and 90%. When there is failure to clear the bile duct transcystically, some surgeons proceed to a choledochotomy to clear the duct, while others close the cystic duct stump, leaving the stones in situ to be removed at a later date by endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and sphincterotomy. The argument in favour of immediate choledochotomy is that the duct may be cleared in one sitting. The argument against it is that the morbidity of choledochotomy is considerable. The argument for a subsequent ERCP is that the morbidity of choledochotomy is avoided. The argument against subsequent ERCP is that there may be difficulty cannulating the common bile duct and that ERCP with sphincterotomy is associated with a significant morbidity, particularly pancreatitis. An alternative approach taken by the majority of surgeons in NSW when confronted by common bile duct stones at laparoscopic cholecystectomy is to close the cystic duct stump in all patients, without exploring the duct transcystically. Stones are left in situ, to be removed at a later date endoscopically - by ERCP and sphincterotomy. The attendant risks of this approach are mentioned above. Another approach is to facilitate the performance of post-operative ERCP and sphincterotomy by inserting a stent transcystically at the time of laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Facilitated ERCP has recently been reported in a prospective consecutive series from Nepean Hospital. Failure to access the common bile duct at first attempt was 1.2% in this series, which compares favourably with duct access failure rates - reported in the literature - of 5-12% without the facilitation of a stent. The incidence of pancreatitis, bleeding and duodenal perforation after facilitated ERCP was 0%, 0% and 0.6%, respectively. Two cases (1.2%) of cholangitis were also reported. Comparison to other series suggests that facilitated ERCP offers real advantages over the conventional unfacilitated ERCP for bile duct stone removal, which has a reported pancreatitis rate of 2-11% (and our own rate of 8%); a bleeding rate of 2-4 % and a duodenal perforation rate of 1-4%. The mortality rates of these ERCP techniques cannot be compared at this preliminary stage because of insufficient numbers in the Nepean series.




18 to 85 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • The patient must be able to give informed consent preoperatively (i.e. elective procedures only)
  • Patients at higher than normal risk of having CBD stones identified at OC. For example: *CBD stones identified at ultrasound; *Wide CBD (>6mm) at ultrasound; *Previous, recent, current cholangitis, jaundice, or biliary pancreatitis; or *Abnormal AST and ALT levels (>2 times normal).

Exclusion criteria

  • Pregnancy at time of surgery
  • Patients not fit for surgery. For example: *Those with acute cholecystitis or persistent obstructive jaundice; *Patients who have had a previous ERCP and sphincterotomy; or *Patients in whom intervention was not technically possible (eg. previous Billroth II gastrectomy).

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from

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