Point-of-Care Ultrasound Assists Diagnosis of Spontaneously Passed Common Bile Duct Stone

J Emerg Med. 2021 Apr;60(4):517-519. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.11.008. Epub 2020 Dec 15.


Background: Choledocholithiasis complicates approximately 10% of gallstone disease. Spontaneous stone migration out of the common bile duct (CBD) may occur in as many as 20% of choledocholithiasis cases. A decrease in CBD caliber occurs in the setting of spontaneous stone passage, but to our knowledge, this finding has not been appreciated using point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in the emergency medicine setting.

Case report: A 49-year-old woman presented to our Emergency Department (ED) with a complaint of epigastric pain radiating to the left shoulder. On examination she was found to have epigastric tenderness to palpation, but no guarding or rebound. POCUS demonstrated a dilated common bile duct, and her liver function tests were abnormally high. She was admitted to Medicine with concern for choledocholithiasis and plan for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), but her pain had resolved shortly after ED arrival. A repeat ultrasound examination demonstrated a normal-caliber common bile duct approximately 3 h after the initial scan. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: Choledocholithiasis often requires admission and invasive testing. Using POCUS in conjunction with liver function tests and patient assessments may obviate a need for ERCP.

Keywords: bedside ultrasound; choledocholithiasis; common bile duct dilatation; point-of-care ultrasound; spontaneous bile duct stone migration; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde
  • Choledocholithiasis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Common Bile Duct / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Gallstones* / diagnosis
  • Gallstones* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Point-of-Care Systems