Holmium: YAG laser lithotripsy for gallstones. A preliminary report

Surg Endosc. 2001 Sep;15(9):1034-7. doi: 10.1007/s004640080149. Epub 2001 Jul 5.


Background: Most retained gallstones can be extracted at the time of operative exploration or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Infrequently, impaction or associated anatomic abnormalities may prevent their clearance. We assessed the efficacy of the holmium:YAG laser in managing retained biliary calculi that had proven refractory to the usual methods of extraction.

Methods: Two patients with calculi impacted in the intrapancreatic common bile duct and one patient with residual stones in a nonfunctional gallbladder were treated with holmium:YAG laser lithotripsy. Two of these patients were treated under conscious sedation, and one received a general endotracheal anesthetic. Laser energy was delivered by a 272-mm optical fiber inserted through a 7-Fr fiberoptic endoscope. The ablative effects were monitored continuously via videoscopic.

Results: All of the stones were cleared successfully in a single therapeutic setting. In one patient, fragments of the impacted intraductal stone were extracted with an endoscopic wire basket. In the other two patients, stone debris was completely cleared with saline irrigation. No complications developed, and all patients remained free of recurrence during a 6-month follow-up period.

Conclusions: The holmium:YAG laser is a multidisciplinary instrument that is safe and effective in the fragmentation of both urinary and biliary calculi. Because it can be delivered through a small-caliber fiberoptic endoscope, it should be particularly useful to laparoscopic surgeons who manage complicated biliary tract disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cholelithiasis / diagnosis
  • Cholelithiasis / therapy*
  • Endoscopy, Digestive System
  • Gallstones / diagnosis
  • Gallstones / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lithotripsy, Laser / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome