Background and Study Aims: Needle-knife papillotomy (NKP) has been shown to be a useful alternative when standard techniques fail to provide access during ERCP. A retrospective review was conducted to reevaluate the indications, efficacy, and complications of NKP at a tertiary referral center. Patients and Methods: A total of 1205 therapeutic endoscopic retrograde cholangiography procedures (ERCPs) were reviewed. Sixty-eight patients (5.6%) had undergone NKP after an established algorithm of techniques had failed to provide access. The NKP results were analyzed in two periods, including initial experience with 470 ERCPs (group 1, NKP n = 22) and later experience with 735 patients (group 2, NKP n = 46). Results: Immediate free cannulation in group 1 was achieved in 14 of 22 patients (64%), vs. 34 of 46 (74%) in group 2. The delayed cannulation rate was five of eight patients in group 1 (62.5%) vs. 11 of 12 in group 2 (92%). The success rate was 19 of 22 patients in group 1 (86%) vs. 45 of 46 in group 2 (98%). The overall success rate was 64 of 68 (94%). Successful cannulation led to a therapeutic intervention in 94% of these patients. A complication rate of 6%, without mortality, was noted. Conclusions: NKP is a valuable tool that allows a high success rate for cannulation, with a low complication rate. The success rate increases with operator experience. NKP should be carried out by experienced endoscopists after standard maneuvers fail to provide access, and when cannulation is likely to be followed by a therapeutic intervention.
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