Background: The management of perforations after endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES) is controversial. The purpose of this study was to analyze the treatments and outcome of patients with ES perforations. Methods: Between January 1994 and July 1998, in a series of 6040 endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographies, 2874 (48%) ESs were performed: 40 patients (0.6%) with perforation were identified and retrospectively reviewed. Results: All patients (n = 14) with guidewire perforation (group I) were recognized early, managed medically, and discharged after a mean hospital stay of 3.5 days. Twenty of 22 patients with periampullary perforation (group II) were identified early; 18 patients (90%) had aggressive endoscopic drainage, and none required operation. Of the 2 patients identified late, 1 patient required operation and subsequently died. Mean hospital stay for this group was 8.5 days. Only 1 of 4 patients with duodenal perforations (group III) was identified early; all required operation; 1 patient died, and the mean hospital stay was 19.5 days. Conclusions: ES perforation has 3 distinct types: guidewire, periampullary, and duodenal. Guidewire perforations are recognized early and resolve with medical treatment. Periampullary perforations diagnosed early respond to aggressive endoscopic drainage and medical treatment. Postsphincterotomy perforations diagnosed late (particularly duodenal) require surgical drainage, which carries a high morbidity and mortality rate.
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