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Common bile duct stones are a very frequent problem in the western world and endoscopic stone clearance is the method of choice for treatment. Despite its common use, endoscopic clearance of common bile duct stones is not always trivial especially in cases involving large or multiple stones. A literature review regarding different endoscopic techniques was performed for this article and a recommended therapeutic algorithm developed based on the guidelines of the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the German Gastroenterological Society. This review gives an overview of currently applied endoscopic techniques, their success and complication rates as well as alternative methods used for cases involving anatomic anomalies. The purpose of this review is to recommend a therapeutic algorithm for the treatment of difficult common bile duct stones (DCBDS). For the treatment of DCBDS, combined sphincterotomy and endoscopic large balloon dilation should be first choice. Mechanical lithotripsy and cholangioscopy-guided lithotripsy are close alternatives with nearly equal clearance rates and should be used if accessible. The insertion of a temporary plastic stent is a good choice to gain time to explore further treatment options. Enteroscopy-based endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, percutaneous transhepatic cholangioscopy or endoscopic ultrasound-guided hepaticogastrostomy and stone treatment, while good alternatives for select cases involving anatomic anomalies, should be performed at specialized units.


Markus Dollhopf, Henning Schmetkamp. Endoscopic management of difficult common bile duct stones. Minerva gastroenterology. 2022 Jun;68(2):144-153

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PMID: 34142521

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