Background: Preoperative assessment of longitudinal spread of bile duct carcinoma (BDC) to the hepatic side remains a difficult problem for diagnostic imaging.
Methods: We studied the accuracy of cholangiography in assessing BDC. In 54 patients with extrahepatic bile duct cancer, cholangiographic findings were compared retrospectively with the histological findings of the resected specimens.
Results: Histological examination of specimens indicated longitudinal spread of the tumour to the hepatic side in 22 of 54 patients. The accuracy of cholangiography in assessing the extent of the longitudinal spread was only 34/54 (63%). When the cholangiographic images showed a main tumour with a collapsed edge, there was a significantly higher frequency of longitudinal spread compared with tumours with sharp edges (P < 0.05). In contrast, the accuracy of mapping biopsy under percutaneous transhepatic cholangioscopy (n = 24) was 83%.
Conclusions: Cholangiography cannot accurately assess the extent of the longitudinal spread of bile duct cancer. When cholangiographic images show a tumour with a collapsed edge, preoperative or intraoperative histological examination is essential to determine a suitable surgical line.