• common bile duct;
  • follow up;
  • laparoscopy;
  • long-term effect;
  • outcome

Background:  The treatment of common bile duct stones discovered at routine intraoperative cholangiography includes postoperative endoscopic retrograde cholangiography or intraoperative laparoscopic common bile duct exploration. Given the equivalence of short-term outcome data for these two techniques, the choice of one over the other may be influenced by long-term follow-up data. We aimed to establish the long-term outcomes following laparoscopic common bile duct exploration and compare this with endoscopic retrograde cholangiography.

Methods:  One hundred and fifty consecutive patients underwent laparoscopic common bile duct exploration between March 1998 and March 2006 carried out by a single surgeon. All were prospectively studied for 1 month followed by a late-term phone questionnaire ascertaining the prevalence of adverse symptoms. Patients presented with a standardized series of questions, with reports of symptoms corroborated by review of medical records.

Results:  In 150 patients, operations included laparoscopic transcystic exploration (135), choledochotomy (10) and choledochoduodenostomy (2). At long-term follow up (mean 63 months), 116 (77.3%) patients were traceable, with 24 (20.7%) reporting an episode of pain and 18 (15.5%) had more than a single episode of pain. There was no long-term evidence of cholangitis, stricture or pancreatitis identified in any patient.

Conclusion:  Laparoscopic bile duct exploration appears not to increase the incidence of long-term adverse sequelae beyond the reported prevalence of postcholecystectomy symptoms. There was no incidence of bile duct stricture, cholangitis or pancreatitis. It is a safe procedure, which obviates the need and expense of preoperative or postoperative endoscopic retrograde cholangiography in most instances.