Using an experimental insulated duodenoscope and a diathermy wire, papillotomy has been performed on 10 patients under diazepam sedation. Seven patients had common bile duct stones (6 following cholecystectomy) and 3 had papillary stenosis. Nine of the patients had severe medical or surgical contraindications to further operative treatment. Papillotomy was successful in all patients, with no significant bleeding or other complications. Repeat endoscopy 6-14 days after papillotomy demonstrated a healed biliary orifice of 7-10 mm diameter. Stones had already passed in 3 of the 7 patients; in 2 others, stones were extracted using balloon catheters or Dormia type baskets. Two larger stones could not be removed; in one of these patients the stone and basket became impacted at the papilla and had to be removed surgically 2 days later. Endoscopic papillotomy is an acceptable alternative to surgery in high risk patients, particularly in the treatment of retained common bile duct stones. If long term results prove satisfactory, the technique will have wider application.