Nonoperative imaging techniques in suspected biliary tract obstruction Academic Article uri icon

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  • Evaluation of suspected biliary tract obstruction is a common clinical problem. Clinical data such as history, physical examination, and laboratory tests can accurately identify up to 90% of patients whose jaundice is caused by extrahepatic obstruction. However, complete assessment of extrahepatic obstruction often requires the use of various imaging modalities to confirm the presence, level, and cause of obstruction, and to aid in treatment plan. In the present summary, the literature on competing technologies including endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), percutaneous transhepatic cholangiopancreatography (PTC), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), intraductal ultrasonography (IDUS), magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), helical CT (hCT) and helical CT cholangiography (hCTC) with regards to diagnostic performance characteristics, technical success, safety, and cost-effectiveness is reviewed. Patients with obstructive jaundice secondary to choledocholithiasis or pancreaticobiliary malignancies are the primary focus of this review. Algorithms for the management of suspected obstructive jaundice are put forward based on current evidence. Published data suggest an increasing role for EUS and other noninvasive imaging techniques such as MRCP, and hCT following an initial transabdominal ultrasound in the assessment of patients with suspected biliary obstruction to select candidates for surgery or therapeutic ERCP. The management of patients with a suspected pancreaticobiliary condition ultimately is dependent on local expertise, availability, cost, and the multidisciplinary collaboration between radiologists, surgeons, and gastroenterologists.


  • Tse, Frances
  • Barkun, Jeffrey S
  • Romagnuolo, Joseph
  • Friedman, Gad
  • Bornstein, Jeffrey D
  • Barkun, Alan N

publication date

  • December 2006

published in

  • HPB  Journal