The incidence of common bile duct (CBD) pathology in a group of patients with benign biliary disease (n = 505) was found to be 23.2 per cent. The spectrum included 111 patients (90.2 per cent) with CBD stones, 37 of whom (33.3 per cent) had no symptoms or findings pre-operatively indicating CBD involvement. Five patients had papillary stenosis, three had postoperative CBD strictures, one had a choledochal cyst and one had an external biliary fistula. Of the 100 CBDs measuring more than 10 mm in diameter, 90 harboured calculi. In the remaining 23 CBDs measuring less than 10mm, calculi were present in 21. The presence of CBD calculi was demonstrated by intra-operative cholangiography in 49 patients. In the remaining patients (n = 74), the diagnosis of CBD pathology was made either by percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography, endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography, T-tube cholangiography or peroperative palpation. The surgical procedures performed included choledochotomy and T-tube drainage (n = 74), transduodenal sphincteroplasty (n = 27) and choledochoduodenostomy (n = 18). The overall mortality and morbidity of CBD exploration was 3.3 per cent and 24.4 per cent respectively, which was significantly greater than that for cholecystectomy alone (0.3 per cent and 8.6 per cent respectively). Transduodenal sphincteroplasty carried a much higher mortality (11 per cent) and morbidity (52 per cent) when compared with other procedures.