Endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES) was attempted in 106 patients with common bile duct (CBD) calculi and gall bladders present, who were considered unfit for surgery on the grounds of age and frailty alone (35%) and/or the presence of major medical problems (65%). Endoscopic sphincterotomy was successful in 105 patients (99%). Early ES related complications occurred in 21 patients (19.8%). Twelve hospital deaths occurred (11.3%), although this was due to biliary causes in only five (4.7%) and one of these was moribund on admission. Complications were more frequent in those in whom initial ES did not clear the common bile duct (30.4%) compared with those in whom this was (11.7%; p = 0.0164). The mortality was also greater in patients in whom there was no ERCP proof of CBD clearance (p = 0.01) unless operated upon. Twelve patients developed gall bladder complications (11.3%) including five with empyema (4.7%). Analysis of clinical, haematological, and biochemical factors together with ERCP findings showed that the only factor which had any value in predicting gall bladder complications was pre-existing cholangitis. The present series was compared with another using ES as a definitive procedure, and with a surgical series. Although there were significant differences in outcome, differences with respect to medical risk factors and the incidence of complications of CBD stones (jaundice, cholangitis, and acute pancreatitis) were striking. Further analysis of these factors may allow a clearer definition of patients most likely to benefit from either ES or surgery.
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