Background: There is much controversy as to the importance of establishing drainage of both liver lobes in malignant hilar obstruction. The purpose of the present study was to compare survival data in patients with malignant hilar obstruction, stratified according to the Bismuth classification, who had cholangiography with filling of one or both hepatic ducts and subsequently endoscopic or percutaneous drainage of one or both ducts.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed for the time period from July 1990 to July 1995, and 224 patients were identified with a presumed diagnosis of a bifurcation tumor. All x-ray films were reviewed and 150 patients finally diagnosed as hilar tumor were classified according to Bismuth type I, II, or III. Type II and III patients were further subclassified with respect to contrast injection into a single or both hepatic duct systems and whether one or both sides were eventually drained.
Results: Data were obtained in 141 patients (4 patients still alive); there were 43 type I, 58 type II, and 40 type III. Type II and III patients were divided into three groups: group A, one lobe opacified with same lobe drained; group B, both lobes opacified with both lobes drained; and group C, both lobes opacified with one lobe drained. Overall median survival for type I, II, and III patients was 160, 131, and 62 days, respectively. Among type II and III patients the median survivals of groups A, B, and C were 145, 225, and 46 days, respectively. Survival was significantly longer in group A vs. group C (p < 0.001), group B vs. group C (p < 0.001, and group A + B (165 days) vs. group C p < 0.001). There was no difference in group A + B versus type I (p=0.90). In addition, when comparing single drain only (group A + C, 80 days) versus double drains (group B, 225 days), there was a significant survival advantage (p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: In bifurcation tumors the best survival was noted in those with bilateral drainage, and the worst survival in those with cholangiographic opacification of both lobes but drainage of only one.