Biliary tract injuries during laparoscopic cholecystectomy: three case reports and literature review

G Chir. 2010 Jan-Feb;31(1-2):16-9.


Introduction: Biliary tract injuries (BTI) represent the most serious and potentially life-threatening complication of cholecystectomy. During open cholecystectomies (OC), the prevalence of bile duct injuries has been estimated at only 0.1-0.2%. We report 3 cases of BTI during laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC). CASE 1: Ascalesi Hospital, Naples 2003-2007, 875 LC (BTI 0,11%). During the dissection of triangle of Calot a partial resection of biliary common duct was made. Immediately the lesion was evident and sheltered in laparoscopy, suturing with a spin reabsorbable, without biliar drainage. The post-operative outcome was good, without alteration of the some parameters, and the patient was discharged after three days. At the last follow-up (January 2006) the cholangiography didn't show stricture or leakage. CASE 2: General and Laparoscopic Surgical Unit San Giovanni di Dio Hospital Frattamaggiore 2004-2007, 720 LC (BTI 0,13%). Patient affected by cholecystitis with gallstones. The patient did not present jaundice, but abdominal pain, leucocitosis, fever and US evidence of parietal gallbladder inflammation. LC was performed after 36 h; during operation, common biliar duct was misidentified for subverted anatomy caused by inflammation. The common bile duct was clipped, and the patient presented jaundice after three days after operation. The colangiography was performed showing the stop. Therefore a reoperation was needed and laparotomic Roux-en-Y hepaticojejunostomy was performed. CASE 3: Dpt of Emergency Surgery, Second University of Naples 2000-2007, LC 520 (BTI 0,19%). Patient affected by more than 20 years symptomatic cholelithiasis, with only obesity risk factor; she underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy and sudden bleeding of the cystic artery, poor vision and probably the long history of symptoms, producing a flogistic alteration of the anatomy, caused a misidentification of the cystic duct and the common bile duct with complete or lateral clipping of the common hepatic duct. The error was unrecognized intra-operatively but after progressive jaundice the postoperative colangiography showed a nearly complete stop by two clips. Roux-en-Y hepaticojejunostomy with intraoperative cholangiographic control was performed.

Discussion: The most common cause of BTI is the failure to recognize the anatomy of the triangle of Calot. This is attributed to factors inherent to the laparoscopic approach, to inadequate training of the surgeon and to local anatomical risk factors. The laparoscopic "learning curve" of the surgeon is the most important factor of bile ducts injury. But also local anatomical risk factors are important such as acute cholecystitis, severe chronic scarring of the gallbladder and bleeding or excessive fat in the hepatic hilum. These local risk factors seem to be present in 15% to 35% of BTI. Abnormal biliary anatomy, such as a short cystic duct or a cystic duct entering into the right hepatic duct also may increase the incidence of BTI. Schematic representation of the common mechanisms of BTI during LC are: misidentification of the cystic duct and the common biliary duct, lateral clipping of the common biliary duct, traumatic avulsion the cystic duct junction, diatermic injury of common biliary duct during dissection of the Calot triangle or during the cholecystectomy, injury of anomalous right hepatic duct.

Conclusion: Conversion to laparotomy, in difficult cases involving inflammatory changes, aberrant anatomy or excessive bleeding, is not to be considered as a failure but rather as good surgical decision in order to ensure the patient's safety.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bile Ducts, Extrahepatic / injuries*
  • Cholecystectomy
  • Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic / adverse effects*
  • Cholelithiasis / surgery*
  • Female
  • Gallstones / surgery
  • Hepatic Duct, Common / injuries
  • Humans
  • Jaundice / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reoperation
  • Treatment Outcome