Tumor seeding from percutaneous biliary catheters

W. C. Chapman, K. W. Sharp, F. Weaver, J. L. Sawyers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Percutaneous hepatic biliary decompression has been used since 1973 as a preoperative surgical adjunct in patients with obstructive jaundice. Tumor seeding along the catheter tract is an unusual complication but it occurred recently in one of our patients who had preoperative biliary drainage for four days. Four months after his pancreaticoduodenectomy, a 2-cm nodule developed at the catheter exit site. This nodule was a metastatic focus of adenocarcinoma similar to his pancreatic tumor. He died 1 month later and at autopsy was found to have numerous metastases along the catheter tract. A review of the world literature found 17 other patients with this complication. Thirteen of the 18 total patients had catheters placed for palliation, while 5 patients underwent preoperative drainage before definitive procedures, and 4 of these patients had undergone 'curative' resections. Nine of the 18 patients had biliary obstruction from cholangiocarcinoma, while seven patients had primary pancreatic carcinoma. Positioning of the catheter tip above the obstructing tumor and maintaining the catheter for only a short duration before operation (mean 8 days for resected patients, range 2 to 16 days) did not protect against catheter-related tumor seeding. Patients with suspected malignant obstruction of the biliary tract who may have resectable tumors should not undergo routine preoperative biliary decompression. If, on exploration, the tumor is found to be unresectable, then a palliative bypass may be performed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-715
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1989


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