Diagnostic value of brush cytology in the diagnosis of bile duct carcinoma: a study in 65 patients with bile duct strictures

Hepatology. 1990 Oct;12(4 Pt 1):747-52. doi: 10.1002/hep.1840120421.


Malignant strictures of the extrahepatic bile ducts are difficult to distinguish from benign strictures, particularly in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Because attempts at diagnosing small cancers with fine-needle aspiration biopsy are not possible in the absence of an associated mass lesion and because the sensitivity of exfoliative biliary cytology is controversial, brush cytology has been used as a potential means of establishing a specific diagnosis of bile duct carcinoma. Herein we report our experience with this technique when performed on 65 patients over a 5-yr period. Each had at least one brushing. Thirty-seven were found to have bile duct carcinoma and 28 were found to have benign strictures. Of these 37, the first brushing was positive for malignancy in 15 (40%), whereas four (11%) had cells suspected but not diagnostic of malignancy. Thirteen patients with bile duct carcinoma whose initial brushings were negative for malignancy had second brushings. Of these, five (38%) had malignant cells, whereas three (24%) yielded suspicious cells. Three of the eight whose first two brushings were negative for malignancy were found to have malignant cells on the third brushing. In contrast, of the 28 patients with benign strictures, malignant cells were never found. However, in two patients, suspicious cells were reported with the first but not the second brushing. A single negative or suspicious cytological finding decreased the probability of bile duct carcinoma to 43%. Two and three sequential negative tests reduced the probability to 32% and 0%, respectively.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bile Duct Diseases / pathology*
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Biopsy / instrumentation
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Constriction, Pathologic / pathology
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio