Forty patients with cholangiocarcinoma (23 men, 17 women) underwent nonsurgical palliative biliary drainage over a period of 12 years. All were surgically unfit or had unresectable disease. All were jaundiced at presentation with a mean serum bilirubin of 11.5±1.9 mg/dl. Thirty patients (75%) had hilar obstruction. Twenty-eight were drained percutaneously, three endoscopically and nine by a combined endoscopic and percutaneous procedure. Technical success was 97.5%. Final mean bilirubin was 1.5±0.4 mg/dl. Minor complications occurred in 10 (25%) patients, and major complications in four (10%). Procedure-related mortality was 2.5% with a 30-day mortality of 7.5%. Mean survival was 8.2±0.5 months. Stent changes were required in eight patients. In patients with inoperable or unresectable cholangiocarcinoma, percutaneous or endoscopic biliary drainage offers effective palliation.
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