Background: Because choledochoscopy often is a challenging maneuver, it would be advantageous to define the real utility of its use. This study aimed to compare blind exploration of the common bile duct (CBD) with choledochoscopy-assisted CBD stone removal in terms of patient outcome and complication rate.
Methods: Two groups of patients were prospectively evaluated in a 4-year period. The study participants were 36 men and 27 women randomized to group A (n = 32) for a blind basket procedure or group B (n = 31) for a choledochoscopy-assisted procedure as the first step of laparoscopic CBD stone removal. Patients with preoperatively suspected CBD stones (n = 51) and those with unsuspected stones (n = 12) were included. The two groups did not differ significantly in terms of anagraphics, American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) score, or previous surgery. All the procedures were performed by surgeons skilled in this surgical field. Choledochoscopy, when used, was always performed with the instrument connected to a camera monitor that had a wide vision, whether in a single-monitor, in a picture-in-picture manner, or with the use of an additional monitor.
Results: From March 2004 to April 2008, 63 patients undergoing CBD exploration for stone removal were enrolled in the study. Five of these patients had undergone previous endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)/endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES). The mean operative time was 107 min for group A and 122 min for group B. The mean hospital stay was 3 days for group A and 3.6 days for group B. Clearance of CBD stones was achieved laparoscopically in 62 cases. One patient required open combined transduodenal papilloplasty and transcholedochotomy. In seven cases, blind basket exploration was unable to remove the stones according to the cholangiogram, so choledochoscopy was required. Six patients underwent a transversal coledocothomy for stone removal. A Kehr T-tube was placed in four of these patients. In four group A cases, the papilla was inadvertently passed during the procedure. In six group A cases, including the four aforementioned cases, a high level of amylases was found on postoperative day 1. At this writing, no late complications or stone recurrences have been observed in either group.
Conclusions: The laparoscopic basket blind technique and choledochoscopy are safe and effective for CBD stone removal. However, the latter seems to be better in terms of a higher stone removal rate and fewer minor complications despite its longer operation time. In the authors' opinion, it may be preferable to reserve ERCP for very high-risk patients, taking into account that in addition to the related complications, it results in an approximate 10% rate of recurrent or persistent stones.