To compare surgical treatment (ST) with endoscopic management (EM) in patients with suspected common bile duct stones.
Two hundred twenty eligible patients originating from 18 surgery units. Patients enrolled in this multicenter randomized study had clinical symptoms that included jaundice, mild pancreatitis (Ranson score ≤2), or mild acute cholangitis; biliary colic (with increased alkaline phosphatase levels); and common bile duct stones or a common bile duct diameter of 1 cm or larger on ultrasonography.
Two hundred two patients were randomly assigned to either ST (n=105) or EM (n=97) during a 5-year period. Both groups were comparable with respect to age, sex, American Society of Anesthesiologists score, and clinical presentation.
Main Outcome Measures
The rates of early postoperative additional procedures necessary to deal with the impossibility to perform the initial procedure, complications, and retained stones after ST or EM. Subsidiary endpoints were intention-to-treat analyses of mortality and of major complications and the duration of hospital stay.
Surgical treatment was associated with a significantly (P<.001) lower rate of 1 or 2 additional procedures (8% vs 29%) due to a significantly lower rate of the impossibility to perform the initial procedure (0% vs 5%) (P<.05), major complications (4% vs 13%) (P<.05), and retained stones (6% vs 16%) (P<.04). Minor complications occurred more often in patients having ST (4%) than in those having EM (0%) (P<.01). Cholecystectomy was performed routinely in 102 patients having ST and electively in 36 patients having EM. There was 1 death in each group initially. On an intention-to-treat analysis, 3 deaths (3.1%) occurred after EM and 1 (0.9%) after ST; this difference was not statistically significant (P=.56). Major complications occurred in 4% of patients having ST compared with 11% of patients having EM (P<.002). The median duration of hospital stay was 16 days in patients having ST and 12 days in those having EM; this difference was not statistically significant (P=.09).
Whether an additional cholecystectomy is performed routinely or electively, the high risk of additional procedures after EM precludes its use as the optimal therapy in patients with symptomatic common bile duct stones, except in those with severe cholangitis.