Early ERCP and papillotomy compared with conservative treatment for acute biliary pancreatitis. The German Study Group on Acute Biliary Pancreatitis

N Engl J Med. 1997 Jan 23;336(4):237-42. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199701233360401.


Background: The role of early endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and papillotomy in the treatment of patients who have acute biliary pancreatitis without obstructive jaundice is uncertain.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, multicenter study in which 126 patients were randomly assigned to early ERCP (within 72 hours after the onset of symptoms) and endoscopic papillotomy for the removal of stones in the common bile duct, when appropriate, and 112 patients were assigned to conservative treatment. In the conservative-treatment group, ERCP was performed within three weeks if signs of biliary obstruction or sepsis developed. Overall mortality, mortality due to pancreatitis, and complications were compared in the two groups.

Results: Early ERCP was successful in 121 of the 126 patients in the invasive-treatment group. Endoscopic papillotomy was performed to remove bile-duct stones in 58 patients; stones were successfully extracted in 57. ERCP was performed in 22 of the 112 patients in the conservative-treatment group; papillotomy for stone removal was successful in 13 patients. Fourteen patients in the invasive-treatment group and 7 in the conservative-treatment group died within three months (P=0.10); 10 patients in the invasive-treatment group and 4 in the conservative-treatment group died from acute biliary pancreatis (P=0.16). The overall rate of complications was similar in the two groups, but patients in the invasive-treatment group had more severe complications. Respiratory failure was more frequent in the invasive-treatment group, and jaundice was more frequent in the conservative-treatment group.

Conclusions: In patients with acute biliary pancreatis but without obstructive jaundice, early ERCP and sphincterotomy were not beneficial.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde*
  • Cholelithiasis / complications
  • Cholelithiasis / surgery
  • Female
  • Gallstones / complications
  • Gallstones / surgery
  • Humans
  • Jaundice / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatitis / etiology
  • Pancreatitis / mortality
  • Pancreatitis / surgery*
  • Pancreatitis / therapy*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Sphincterotomy, Endoscopic*