Symptomatic cholelithiasis is a common disease in the general population with an increased prevalence in patients with cirrhosis. While cholecystectomy is the procedure of choice for the treatment of symptomatic cholelithiasis, cirrhotics have an increased risk of complications associated with this therapy. We have found that placement of an endoscopic gallbladder stent is an alternative, less invasive treatment for cirrhotic patients with symptomatic gallbladder disease and describe our experience here.
A retrospective medical record review of 23 patients with cirrhosis who underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiography with gallbladder stent placement for symptomatic gallbladder disease from July 1994 to August 2004.
Indications for stent placement included recurrent biliary colic (56.5%), acute calculous cholecystitis (39%), acalculous cholecystitis (8.6%), and gallstone pancreatitis (8.6%). All patients experienced resolution of their symptoms following stent placement. Twenty patients (87%) were asymptomatic from 5 days to 3 years post-procedure until transplantation, death, or end of study period. Nine patients (39%) underwent liver transplantation, 5 days to 34 months after the procedure. Eleven patients are well, with ten patients awaiting liver transplantation. Three patients developed late complications and were treated successfully with antibiotics.
Endoscopic stenting of the gallbladder may be a potential treatment for symptomatic gallbladder disease in patients with cirrhosis awaiting liver transplantation, considered to be high-risk for cholecystectomy.