Review Article

Changes in the Management of Common Bile Duct Stones: 1980 to Date

Ruth Stalnikowicz and Jochanan Benbassat


Objective: To compare the results of treating patients with common bile duct (CBD) stones by endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES), surgical exploration, or a combination of ES and surgical CBD exploration (the rendezvous technique).

Methods: A narrative review of the literature. Summary of Data: Before 1990, 17 cohort studies indicated that ES cleared CBD stones in 92.0% of patients, with a mortality rate of 1.5%. Surgery removed CBD stones in 90.2% of patients, with a 2.1% mortality rate. A single randomized controlled trial in 1987 showed that ES removed CBD stones in 91% of 55 patients, with a 3.6% mortality rate and a 27% complication rate, whereas surgical CBD exploration removed CBD stones in 92%, with a 1.8% mortality rate and a 22% complication rate. Since 1991, 26 randomized controlled trials have shown that laparoscopic–ES rendezvous is as effective as ES alone and laparoscopic surgery alone but is associated with fewer complications, a reduced need for additional procedures, and a shorter hospital stay.

Conclusions: A laparoscopic–ES rendezvous appears to be the optimal approach to the treatment of CBD stones in younger and fit patients. The choice between ES alone and laparoscopic–ES rendezvous in older or high-risk patients remains uncertain.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2024;15(2):e0007