Background: Iatrogenic bile duct injury carries high morbidity. After the introduction of laparoscopic cholecystectomy the incidence of these injuries has at least doubled, and even after the learning curve, the incidence has plateaued at the level of 0.5%.
Methods: A total of 32 patients sustained biliary tract injuries of the 3736 laparoscopic cholecystectomies performed in and around Turku University Central Hospital between January 1995 and April 2002. The data concerning primary treatment and long-term results were collected and analyzed retrospectively.
Results: The overall incidence for bile duct injuries, including all the minor injuries (cystic duct leaks and bile duct strictures), was 0.86%; for major injuries alone the incidence was 0.38%. Nineteen percent of the injuries were detected intraoperatively. All the cystic duct leaks were treated endoscopically with a 90% success rate. Of the bile duct strictures 88% were treated successfully with endoscopic techniques. Ninety-three percent of the major injuries, including tangential lesions of common bile duct and total transections, were treated operatively. The operation of choice was either hepaticojejunostomy or cholangiojejunostomy in 69% of the cases; the rest were treated with simple suturing over a T-tube or an endoscopically placed stent. The long-term results, with a median follow-up period of 7.5 years, are good in 79% of the operated patients and in 84% of the whole study population. Mortality rate was 3% and acute or chronic cholangitis was seen in 13% of the patients during follow-up.
Conclusion: Most of the minor bile duct injuries, including cystic duct leaks and bile duct strictures, are well treatable with endoscopic techniques, whereas most of the major injuries require operative treatment, which at optimal circumstances gives good results.