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South African Journal of Surgery

On-line version ISSN 2078-5151
Print version ISSN 0038-2361


LAWSON, A J et al. Percutaneous transhepatic self-expanding metal stents for palliation of malignant biliary obstruction. S. Afr. j. surg. [online]. 2012, vol.50, n.3, pp.54-60. ISSN 2078-5151.

BACKGROUND: Malignant biliary obstruction is often inoperable at presentation and has a poor prognosis. Percutaneously placed self-expanding metal stents (SEMS) have been widely used for palliation of malignant biliary obstruction as an alternative to major bypass surgery or when endoscopic drainage is not technically feasible. The success rate, procedural complications and outcomes in patients who underwent placement of SEMS in a tertiary referral centre are presented. METHODS: All patients who had percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) and SEMS for palliation of malignant biliary obstruction between May 2008 and July 2010 at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, were reviewed. A retrospective chart review was undertaken using multidisciplinary case notes of all patients. The data analysed included demographic information, diagnosis, level of biliary obstruction, number and type of procedures, efficacy and complications of SEMS insertion. Boston Scientific 69 mm by 10 mm Wallstent SEMS were used in all patients. RESULTS: Fifty patients (28 men, 22 women, mean age 61 years, range 48 - 80 years) underwent percutaneous SEMS placement. Twenty-one patients had biliary obstruction at the level of the hilum involving the hepatic duct bifurcation, 5 in the mid-common bile duct and 24 in the low common bile duct. In 20 patients (40%) SEMS were placed at the time of initial biliary drainage (one-stage procedure), while the remaining 30 patients underwent stent placement within 2 - 23 days of biliary drainage as a two-stage procedure because of difficult access through the lesion during the initial procedure. Five patients (10%) required bilateral SEMS insertion. Stent placement was successful in all patients and biliary obstruction was relieved in all. The mean serum bilirubin level decreased by a mean of 56% from 294 µmol/l to 129 µmol/l measured 5 days after stent insertion. Mean hospital stay after stent insertion was 4.1 days. The average length of hospital stay for patients who underwent a one-stage procedure was 3.2 days (range 1 - 11 days), and for patients who underwent a two-stage procedure 7.6 days (range 3 - 23 days). Nine patients (18%) developed a procedure-related complication, which included cholangitis after stent insertion (n=4), cholangitic liver abscesses (n=1), subphrenic liver collection (n=1), bile leakage (n=1) and cholecystitis (n=2). Three patients (6%) developed complications unrelated to SEMS insertion, which included myocardial ischaemia (n=2) and pneumonia (n=1). Stent occlusion occurred in 4 patients (8%) within a week as result of stent migration (n=3) or presumed biliary sludge (n=1); 2 (4%) stents occluded between 7 days and 1 month. Four patients (8%) died during hospital admission due to pre-existing biliary sepsis (n=3) and pneumonia (n=1). Nine patients developed duodenal obstruction due to disease progression and required endoscopic duodenal stenting. Four patients (8%) survived less than 1 month, 12 (24%) between 1 month and 3 months, 11 (22%) between 3 and 6 months, and 10 (20%) beyond 6 months. Follow-up was not possible for 9 patients (18%) from distant referral sites. CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate that percutaneously placed SEMS achieved satisfactory palliation with a low complication rate in a high-risk patient group with advanced malignant biliary obstruction.

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