Choledocholithiasis diagnostics – endoscopic ultrasound or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography?

Jarosław Leszczyszyn1,2

Affiliation and address for correspondence
J Ultrason 2014; 14: 125–129
DOI: 10.15557/JoU.2014.0012

It is estimated that 3.4% of patients qualified for cholecystectomy due to cholelithiasis have a coexisting choledocholithiasis. For decades, endoscopic ascending retrograde cholangiopancreatography has been the golden diagnostic standard in cases of suspected choledocholithiasis. The method is associated with a relatively high rate of complications, including acute pancreatitis, the incidence of which is estimated to range between 0.74% and 1.86%. The mechanism of this ERCP-induced complication is not fully understood, although factors increasing the risk of acute pancreatitis, such as sphincter of Oddi dysfunction, previous acute pancreatitis, narrow bile ducts or difficult catheterization of Vater’s ampulla are known. It has been suggested to discontinue the diagnostic endoscopic retrograde ascending cholangiopancreatography and replace it with endoscopic ultrasonography due to possible and potentially dangerous complications. Endoscopic ultrasonography has sensitivity of 94% and specificity of 95% regardless of gallstone diameter, as opposed to magnetic resonance cholangiography. However, both of these parameters depend on the experience of the performing physician. The use of endoscopic ultrasonography allows to limit the number of performed endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedures by more than 2/3. Ascending endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography combined with an endoscopic incision into the Vater’s ampulla followed by a mechanical evacuation of stone deposits from the ducts still remains a golden standard in the treatment of choledocholithiasis. Despite some limitations such as potentially increased treatment costs as well as the necessity of the procedure to be performed by a surgeon experienced in both endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography as well as endoscopic ultrasonography, the diagnostic endoscopic ultrasonography followed by a simultaneous endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography aimed at gallstone removal is the most efficient diagnostic and therapeutic management scheme in cases of suspected choledocholithiasis.

endoscopic ultrasound, choledocholithiasis, endoscopic ascending retrograde cholangiopancreatography