Experimental work has established that the Candela (Candela Laser Corporation, Wayland, MA) flashlamp excited dye laser (wavelength, 504 nm) is a highly effective method for fragmenting biliary stones and has minimal potential for injuring the bile duct wall. This technique was evaluated in 25 complex patients whose stones, usually because of large size, did not respond to standard nonoperative treatment. The laser imaging was applied through a quartz fiber and aimed either under direct vision with choledochoscopes passed percutaneously or through a special "mother" duodenoscope or under fluoroscopic guidance at standard duodenoscopy. Laser treatment resulted in some fragmentation of stones in 23 cases. Subsequently, it proved that it was possible to clear the bile duct of stones in 20 patients, 12 of them receiving successful treatment during the same endoscopic procedure. There were no significant complications. This endoscopic technique seems to be a useful new alternative to surgery in patients with large and difficult bile duct stones.