Background: In October 1993, to detect associated common bile duct (CBD) stones, we started an evaluation program of patients with symptomatic cholelithiasis who were candidates for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Study Design: We used a standard preoperative algorithm and a laparoscopic ultrasonographic (LUS) examination. Preoperative endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) was reserved for high-risk patients for CBD stones. Laparoscopic ultrasonographic examination during cholecystectomy was routinely performed to identify stones unsuspected preoperatively. Two- hundred-sixteen patients with symptomatic cholelithiasis were included in the study; 177 patients (82%) were at low risk for choledocholithiasis and 39 patients (18%) were at high risk and had preoperative ERCP. In 17 patients (43.5%) CBD stones were found, and in 16 patients (41%) they were removed by endoscopic sphincterotomy. Results: In all patients, the main intra- and extrahepatic ducts were well documented by LUS, but in eight cases the distal tract of the CBD was not well-visualized. In eight parents, small stones were found in the CBD. A subsequent peroperative cholangiography or CBD exploration confirmed the diagnosis. In one patient, both LUS and cholangiography suspected a small stone; the CBD exploration did not confirm it (false positive). In two patients a small stone in the CBD was found during the followup period (two false negatives). An endoscopic sphincterotomy solved the problem. Conclusions: Laparoscopic ultrasonographic examination may be a real alternative to cholangiography during laparoscopic cholecystectomy: this may be reserved for selected instances on the basis of LUS findings. On the other hand, considerable ultrasonographic experience is required for LUS to be performed successfully.
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