Extrahepatic biliary stenoses after hepatic arterial infusion (HAI) of floxuridine (FUdR) for liver metastases from colorectal cancer

L. Aldrighetti, M. Arru, M. Ronzoni, M. Salvioni, E. Villa, G. Ferla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatic arterial infusion of floxuridine is an effective treatment for unresectable hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer. Despite its pharmacological advantage of higher tumor drug concentration with minimal systemic toxicity, hepatic arterial infusion of floxuridine is characterized by regional toxicity, including hepatobiliary damage resembling idiopathic sclerosing cholangitis (5-29% of treated cases). Unlike previous reports describing biliary damage of both intrahepatic and extrahepatic ducts, a case series of extrahepatic biliary stenosis after hepatic arterial infusion with floxuridine is herein described. Between September 1993 and February 1999, 54 patients received intraarterial hepatic chemotherapy based on continuous infusion of floxuridine (dose escalation 0.15-0.30mg/kg/day for 14 days every 28 days) plus dexamethasone 28mg. Twenty-seven patients underwent laparotomy to implant the catheter into the hepatic artery, the other 27 patients receiving a percutaneous catheter into the hepatic artery through a transaxillary access. Five patients (9.2%) developed biliary toxicity with jaundice and cholangitis (3 cases), alterations of liver function tests and radiological features of biliary tract abnormalities. They received from 9 to 19 cycles (mean 14.5±6.3 cycles) of floxuridine infusion with a total drug delivered dose ranging from 20.3 to 41.02mg/kg (mean: 31.4±13.5mg/kg). Extrahepatic biliary sclerosis was discovered by computed tomography scan and ultrasound, followed by endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and/or percutaneous cholangiography in 3 cases. Radiological findings included common hepatic duct complete obstruction in 1 case, common hepatic duct stenosis in 2 cases, common bile duct obstruction in i case, and intrahepatic bile ducts dilation without a well-recognized obstruction in i case. Two patients were treated by sequentially percutaneous biliary drainage and balloon dilation while 1 patient had an endoscopic transpapillary biliary prosthesis placed. Percutaneous or endoscopic procedures obtained the improvement of hepatic function and cholestatic indexes without subsequent jaundice or cholangitis. In two patients suppression of floxuridine infusion allowed the improvement of hepatic function. The present series suggests that in some patients receiving hepatic arterial infusion of floxuridine extrahepatic biliary stenosis may represent the primary event leading to a secondary intrahepatic biliary damage that does not correlate with specific floxuridine toxicity but results from bile stasis and infection, recurrent cholangitis and eventually biliary sclerosis. Aggressive research for extrahepatic biliary sclerosis is advised, since an early nonsurgical treatment of extrahepatic biliary stenosis may prevent an irreversible intrahepatic biliary sclerosis worsening the prognosis of metastatic liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1302-1307
Number of pages6
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Biliary complications
  • Hepatic arterial infusion
  • Liver metastases
  • Regional chemotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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