Sodium cholate dissolution of retained biliary stones: Mortality rate following intrahepatic infusion

Henry A. Pitt, John L. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The reported complication rate from T-tube infusion of sodium cholate for dissolution of retained biliary stones is low. Among 84 patients reported in the English-language literature, and 10 additional cases of our own, there have been no deaths, an incidence of liver enzyme elevation in 7%, fever in 5%, cholangitis in 2%, and pancreatitis in 2%. Recently, we have infused 100mM sodium cholate at 30 cc/hr into patients through transhepatic biliary stents in an effort to rid the intrahepatic biliary tree of retained stones and biliary sludge. Appropriate precautions were taken to prevent increased biliary pressures by the insertion of a 30 cm manometer into the perfusion system. During four transhepatic infusions in three patients, all experienced nausea and vomiting, and two of the three patients developed diarrhea and abdominal pain. Liver enzymes became elevated during all four infusions, and two of the three patients became septic and died shortly after their infusions. Experimental work in animals suggests that intrahepatic sodium cholate infusion results in injury to the ductal epithelium and predisposes patients to bacteremia and sepsis. Even though T-tube infusion of sodium cholate into the common bile duct is well tolerated, direct infusion into the intrahepatic biliary tree through a transhepatic tube is not and carries a high risk of sepsis and death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-460
Number of pages4
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1979


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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