Since therapeutic endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography replaced surgery as the first approach in cases of choledocolithiasis, a plethora of endoscopic techniques and devices appeared in order to facilitate rapid, safe and effective bile duct stones extraction. Nowadays, endoscopic sphincterotomy combined with balloon catheters and/or baskets is the routine endoscopic technique for stone extraction in the great majority of patients. Large common bile duct stones are treated conventionally with mechanical lithotripsy, while the most serious complication of the procedure is "basket and stone impaction" that is predominately resolved surgically. In cases of difficult, impacted, multiple or intrahepatic stones, more sophisticated procedures have been used. Electrohydraulic lithotripsy and laser lithotripsy are performed using conventional mother-baby scope systems, ultra-thin cholangioscopes, thin endoscopes and ultimately using the novel single use, single operator SpyGlass Direct Visualization System, in order to deliver intracorporeal shock wave energy to fragment the targeted stone, with very good outcomes. Recently, large balloon dilation after endoscopic sphincterotomy confirmed its effectiveness in the extraction of large stones in a plethora of trials. When compared with mechanical lithotripsy or with balloon dilation alone, it proved to be superior. Moreover, dilation is an ideal alternative in cases of altered anatomy where access to the papilla is problematic. Endoscopic sphincterotomy followed by large balloon dilation represents the onset of a new era in large bile duct stone extraction and the management of "impaction" because it seems that is an effective, inexpensive, less traumatic, safe and easy method that does not require sophisticated apparatus and can be performed widely by skillful endoscopists. When complete extraction of large stones is unsuccessful, the drainage of the common bile duct is mandatory either for bridging to the final therapy or as a curative therapy for very elderly patients with short life expectancy. Placing of more than one plastic endoprostheses is better while the administration of Ursodiol is ineffective. The great majority of patients with large stones can be treated endoscopically. In cases of unsuccessful stone extraction using balloons, baskets, mechanical lithotripsy, electrohydraulic or laser lithotripsy and large balloon dilation, the patient should be referred for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy or a percutaneous approach and finally surgery.
Keywords: Electrohydraulic lithotripsy; Endoscopic sphincterotomy; Large bile duct stones; Large papillary balloon dilation; Laser lithotripsy; Mechanical lithotripsy; Papillary balloon dilation.