Background: Bile duct calculi (BDC) can be cleared or treated with modern endoscopic techniques in most patients. However, large stones, bile duct strictures, or unusual anatomy may make endoscopic clearance difficult. The purpose of the present study was to determine the efficacy of extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy (ESWL) in treating patients with complicated BDC.
Methods: Between 1989 and January 1995, 16 patients with BDC were treated at our institution with ESWL using a Dornier HM-3 lithotropter. The average age of patients was 62 years (range 32 to 88). Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) with sphincterotomy and attempted stone extraction (100%), nasobiliary drainage (83%), and biliary stents (6%) were used prior to ESWL. Eleven patients (61 %) had solitary stones, ranging in diameter from 0.5 to 2.6 cm, whereas 7 patients had multiple stones, ranging in diameter from 0.5 to 5.0 cm. The indications for ESWL were stone impaction (56%), stone size (38%), and bile duct stricture (6%).
Results: The 16 patients received 27 ESWL treatments (mean = 2101 shock at 21 kV); with 4 patients (22%) requiring multiple treatments. Stone fragmentation was achieved in 94% of patients. All patients had ERCP performed post-ESWL, and only 2 (13%) patients required immediate operations. At discharge, 94% of patients were stone-free. Minor complications (eg, pain, hematuria) were common. With an average follow-up of 3 years, only 1 patient (6%) has required retreatment for BDC. Hepatic transplantation was required in an additional patient.
Conclusions: In this cohort of patients with both major medical comorbidities and/or technical contraindications to standard methods of endoscopic and surgical clearance of BDC, we found that ESWL facilitated stone clearance in 94% of patients with minimal morbidity and no mortality. In our opinion, ESWL should be used more frequently in the treatment of these complex patients.