, Volume 56, Issue 5, pp 1557-1564
Date: 11 Jan 2011

Optimum Palliation of Inoperable Hilar Cholangiocarcinoma: Comparative Assessment of the Efficacy of Plastic and Self-Expanding Metal Stents

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Endoscopic retrograde biliary drainage (ERBD) with plastic or self-expanding metal stents (SEMS) is often performed for palliative care for cholangiocarcinoma.


The objective was to compare the clinical effectiveness, including stent patency, complication rate, and need for salvage percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage, of SEMS and plastic stents.


A total of 100 patients with inoperable cholangiocarcinoma were identified from an endoscopic database from 1/1/01 to 9/30/06 at a tertiary cancer hospital and their clinical history was retrospectively reviewed. All patients were followed to death, re-intervention, or for at least one year. Stent patency and patient survival were estimated by Kaplan–Meier analysis, supplemented by the log-rank test for comparisons between groups.


Forty-eight patients had SEMS placed and 52 patients had plastic stents placed. ERBD was successful in 46 (95.8%) in the SEMS group and 49 (94.2%) in the plastic group (P = 0.67). Median patency times were 1.86 months in the plastic group and 5.56 months in the SEMS group (P < 0.0001). A mean of 1.53 and 4.60 re-interventions were performed in the SEMS and plastic groups, respectively (P < 0.05). Complications occurred in 4/48 (8.3%) in the SEMS group and 4/52 (7.7%) in the plastic group (P = 0.79). Median survival was 9.08 and 8.22 months in the SEMS and plastic stent groups, respectively (P = 0.50).


Metallic stent patency was superior to that of plastic stents in all Bismuth–Corlette classifications of hilar cholangiocarcinoma with similar complication rates. SEMS seem to be cost-effective and, when feasible, should be considered as an initial intervention in patients with inoperable hilar cholangiocarcinoma.