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Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology

ISSN: 0036-5521 (Print) 1502-7708 (Online) Journal homepage:

New classification system for indications for

endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
predicts diagnoses and adverse events

Nicholas Yuen, Pauline OShaughnessy & Andrew Thomson

To cite this article: Nicholas Yuen, Pauline OShaughnessy & Andrew Thomson (2017): New
classification system for indications for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
predicts diagnoses and adverse events, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, DOI:

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Published online: 28 Sep 2017.

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New classification system for indications for endoscopic retrograde

cholangiopancreatography predicts diagnoses and adverse events
Nicholas Yuena, Pauline OShaughnessyb and Andrew Thomsona,c
Australian National University Medical School, Acton, Australia; bStatistical Consulting Unit, Australian National University, Acton, Australia;
Gastroenterology Unit, The Canberra Hospital, Canberra, Australia


Background: Indications for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) have received lit- Received 7 August 2017
tle attention, especially in scientific or objective terms. Revised 9 September 2017
Aim: To review the prevailing ERCP indications in the literature, and to propose and evaluate a new Accepted 15 September 2017
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ERCP indication system, which relies on more objective pre-procedure parameters.

Methods: An analysis was conducted on 1758 consecutive ERCP procedures, in which contemporan- KEYWORDS
eous use was made of an a-priori indication system. Indications were based on the objective pre-pro- Cholangiopancreatography;
cedure parameters and divided into primary [cholangitis, clinical evidence of biliary leak, acute (biliary) endoscopic retrograde;
pancreatitis, abnormal intraoperative cholangiogram (IOC), or change/removal of stent for benign/ biliary tract diseases;
malignant disease] and secondary [combination of two or three of: pain attributable to biliary disease choledocholithiasis
(P), imaging evidence of biliary disease (I), and abnormal liver function tests (LFTs) (L)]. A secondary
indication was only used if a primary indication was not present. The relationship between this newly
developed classification system and ERCP findings and adverse events was examined.
Results: The indications of cholangitis and positive IOC were predictive of choledocholithiasis at ERCP
(101/154 and 74/141 procedures, respectively). With respect to secondary indications, only if all three
of P, I, and L were present there was a statistically significant association with choledocholithiasis
(v2(1) 35.3, p < .001). Adverse events were associated with an unusual indication leading to greater
risk of unplanned hospitalization (v2(1) 17.0, p < .001).
Conclusions: An a-priori-based indication system for ERCP, which relies on pre-ERCP objective parame-
ters, provides a more useful and scientific classification system than is available currently.

Introduction indications were thus examined and evaluated by searching

the literature.
On a per-procedure basis, endoscopic retrograde cholangio-
A new a-priori system for ERCP indications, that is, a set of
pancreatography (ERCP) is far and away the most risky of the
indications that are able to be defined by available pre-pro-
commonly performed endoscopic procedures, in which the
cedure data, has been developed and was evaluated to
skin is not breached [1]. Ensuring that each and every pro-
determine if the classification of ERCP indications can be
cedure is indicated is, therefore, important. It is thus surpris-
made more objective and thereby potentially enable
ing that there has been so little attention paid to developing
improved practice in this area. In addition, how predictive
a systematic, objective approach to the classification of ERCP
the new classification system is in terms of ERCP findings
indications. Current ERCP guidelines enunciate the import-
and adverse events was also assessed.
ance of careful selection of cases for ERCP and provide lists
of recommended indications for this procedure [2,3].
However, there is still reliance on subjective parameters such
as jaundiced patient suspected to have a biliary obstruction Methods
and general overarching concepts such as clinical and bio-
Literature review
chemical or imaging data suggestive of pancreatic or biliary
tract disease [2]. In addition, many indications in unselected Case series of ERCPs were reviewed to ascertain the current
series of consecutive ERCP procedures suffer from presuppos- indication criteria used for ERCP. The search criteria used
ing a diagnosis suspected choledocholithiasis. This lack of were as follows:
a systematic and objective approach to the classification of
ERCP indications represents a gap in which progress may be  greater than 500 ERCP cases,
made in terms of potentially reducing unnecessary ERCP pro-  consecutive, unselected cases,
cedures. The currently used classification systems for ERCP  ERCP carried out in humans,

CONTACT Nicholas Yuen Australian National University Medical School, Florey Building, 54 Mills Road, Acton ACT 2601, Australia
2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Publicaons idened
through database
search (n=1396)

Excluded aer
tle/abstract (n=1360)

Full text arcles

assessed for eligibility

Excluded aer full text

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analysis (n=29)

Publicaons from
database search
included in study
(n= 7)

Publicaons sourced
from bibliographies
and others (n=5)

Total publicaons
included in study

Figure 1. Literature review flow chart.

 literature published in English, and that did not comprise more than 2% of indications in any
 published in the last 10 years (2004 onwards). single study have been excluded for simplicity.

The literature search was conducted using the

PubMed database, using the MeSH, and search terms New a-priori system for ERCP indications and its
cholangiopancreatography, endoscopic retrograde, and evaluation
ERCP. The search was refined by the types of publications
A database containing details of 1758 consecutive ERCP pro-
classified as Clinical Trial, Comparative Study, and Research
cedures conducted at the Canberra Hospital by a single
Support. In addition to publications sourced from this
expert operator (the ERCP database) between 26 February
PubMed search, publications were also sourced from the bib-
liographies of the papers that underwent full text analysis. 2008 and 22 December 2014 was developed and subse-
Figure 1 shows the flow chart of the literature review quently analyzed to investigate the appropriateness of a set
method. of ERCP indications that were based on a-priori objective
With regard to analysis of the ERCP indications identified parameters. Data were contemporaneously collected and
from the literature review, these were grouped into broad recorded by the ERCP operator and included parameters
classifications in order to reveal any patterns in the nature of such as patient demographic data, indication, finding, pres-
the indications used. The following categories were used to ence of previous sphincterotomy, whether the desired duct
group the indications: clinical observation, imaging abnor- was deeply cannulated, whether a pancreatic stent was
malities, objective laboratory data, procedural intention, and placed, the development of post-ERCP pancreatitis, and the
suspected or apparent diagnosis. Those specific indications occurrence of unplanned hospital admission/prolongation of

Table 1. Frequency table of the ERCP indications.

ERCP indication N (%) (total N 1758)
Primarya Cholangitis: febrile illness with jaundice for which no other clinical 154 (8.8)
cause was evident, with or without abdominal pain.
Biliary leak: significant leakage of biliary fluid through a surgical 44 (2.5)
drain following biliary surgery (including gall bladder surgery)
usually associated with abdominal pain, but not always.
Acute (biliary) pancreatitis: epigastric pain with lipase levels greater than 5 times the 193 (11.0)
upper limit of normal with associated rise in liver function tests (LFTs) or
imaging evidence of choledocholithiasis.
Intraoperative cholangiogram (IOC): imaging evidence of a bile duct stone seen 141 (8.0)
on intraoperative cholangiogram performed during cholecystectomy.
Change or removal of biliary stent for malignant disease (C/ROSM). 60 (3.4)
Change or removal of biliary stent for benign disease (C/ROSB). 284 (16.2)
Secondaryb Combination clinical findings: Combination of at least 2 of 3 of the following:
1. Pain (P): defined as epigastric or PIL 475 (27.0)
right upper quadrant pain.
2. Abnormal imaging (I): defined PI 53 (3.0)
as imaging to suggest significant
abnormalities of the bile duct.
3. LFT abnormalities (L): defined as PL 128 (7.3)
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significant abnormalities in LFTs.

IL 179 (10.2)
Other: ERCP conducted for any other reason. 47 (2.7)
Primary indications are listed in order of priority allocation to a higher priority indication precluded an indication lower down
being used, and it was only possible for a patient to have one primary indication.
A secondary indication was only used if a patient did not have a primary indication.

hospital stay following ERCP. The ERCP indication categories such as parenchymal liver disease or Gilberts syndrome. A
used are listed and defined in Table 1. small group of patients did not fall into any of the primary
or secondary indications and were grouped together under
Primary indications the indication of other.
There were six primary indication categories such as cholan- The findings at ERCP were classified into seven categories.
gitis, biliary leak, acute (biliary) pancreatitis, positive intrao- These are summarized in Table 2. Findings classified as N/A
perative cholangiogram (IOC), change/removal of stent for indicate that no cholangiogram was conducted, commonly
malignant disease, and change/removal of stent for benign due to lack of biliary access or when a cholangiogram was not
disease. The indications were prioritized in that if there were necessary. Post-ERCP, patients were followed proactively with
more than one, then the one higher on the list (as specified telephone calls by the endoscopist both on the evening of the
in Table 1) was used. For instance, if a patient presented procedure and the next day. If the patient was an inpatient,
with both cholangitis and pancreatitis, then cholangitis was either the endoscopist reviewed the patients in person or tele-
used as the indication. Similarly, if a patient who had previ- phoned the nursing staff supervising the patients both on the
ously undergone biliary stenting for a malignant stricture, evening of the ERCP and the following day. In our hospital,
presented with cholangitis secondary to blockage of the most patients undergo ERCPs as outpatients. Inpatient ERCPs
stent, then this was classified as cholangitis. If and only if a were almost all performed on patients whose clinical status
patient did not fall into one of these six categories, an appro- mandated inpatient care. ERCP-related adverse events includ-
priate secondary indication was invoked. In addition, if an ing the occurrence of either post-ERCP pancreatitis or other
indication was itself a diagnosis, clearly defined parameters, instances of unplanned hospital admission/prolongation of
which were as objective as possible were used. hospital stay were documented contemporaneously.
Statistical analysis was conducted on the ERCP data using
Secondary indications the IBM SPSS Statistics 22.0 program (Armonk, NY). To inves-
Secondary indications, which were only used if a primary tigate the association between ERCP indications, findings and
indication was not applicable, consisted of a combination of occurrence of adverse events, separate chi-squared tests
two or three of: epigastric or right upper quadrant pain (P), were performed for every combination of these variables.
imaging suggestive of significant abnormalities of the bile The Fishers exact test was used in cases where total sample
duct (I), and significant abnormalities in LFTs (L). No precise size was small and the expected count in contingency table
numeric criteria were used in determining if abnormal LFTs cells was less than 5. Results were assessed as statistically sig-
were considered significant, but in general there had to be nificant if p values were smaller than .05.
either a sharp, recent increase over a day or two in more
than one biochemical marker (alanine transaminase, bilirubin, Results
and gamma-glutamyl transferase) or a persistent level of ele-
Literature review
vation in at least two of these markers, one of which was bili-
rubin. Care was taken to ensure as far as possible that Twelve papers meeting the above criteria were identified,
alternative causes of elevated LFTs/bilirubin were excluded covering a date range from 2004 to 2014, and a total of

Table 2. Frequency table of the ERCP outcomes in the ERCP database.

ERCP findings N (%) (total N 1758)
Pathological finding Stone: bile duct filling defect consistent with a stone. 636 (36.2)
Stricture: bile duct stricture. 332 (18.9)
Dilated duct: diffusely dilated bile duct without evidence of a stricture or stone. 167 (9.5)
Bile leak. 25 (1.4)
Other. 35 (2.0)
N/A No cholangiogram performed. 170 (9.7)
Normal No abnormalities found on cholangiogram. 393 (22.4)

Table 3. Summary of literature that passed search criteria.

Author Year Type of study No. of cases Top 5 indications for ERCP (%)
Balik et al. [4] 2013 Retrospective 5884 Jaundice (48.3)
Abdominal pain (37.5)
Cholangitis (6)
Biliary fistula (5.3)
Follow-up (2.1)
Christensen et al. [5] 2004 Prospective 1177 Elevated liver test with jaundice (32.3)
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Elevated liver test without jaundice (20.9)

Suspected bile duct stone at ultrasound (US), MR, or cholangiography
Biliary pancreatitis (8.4)
Chronic pancreatitis (8.2)
Colton et al. [7] 2009 Prospective 805 Choledocholithiasis (31.2)
Clinical and biochemical or imaging data suggestive of pancreatic or
biliary tract disease (25.2)
Suspected stone (24.6)
Jaundice thought secondary to biliary obstruction (16.4)
Stent placement across strictures, fistulae, postoperative bile leak, or
large common bile duct stones (7.2)
Cote et al. [18] 2013 Retrospective 16,968 Abdominal symptoms (37.2)
Gallstone disease (33.1)
Other bile duct/liver pathology (22.4)
Bile duct obstruction (19.6)
Abnormal laboratory parameters (18.5)
Cotton et al. [19] 2009 Retrospective 11,497 Biliary stent insertion or extraction (34.1)
Pancreatitis (historical) (25.9)
Suspected SOD (25.4)
Jaundice (21.3)
Suspected or known stone (16.1)
Ekkelenkamp et al. [20] 2014 Prospective 1515 Suspicion of common bile duct (CBD) stones (22.8)
Malignant stenosis (23.7)
Benign stenosis (18.0)
Chronic pancreatitis (12.5)
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (5.9)
Katsinelos et al. [21] 2014 Retrospective 2715 Choledocholithiasis (76.3)
Biliary cancer (9.3)
History of pancreatitis (3.2)
Bile duct leak (2.5)
SOD (2.9)
Siiki et al. [22] 2012 Retrospective 1207 CBD stone (32.2)
Malignancy (20.9)
Bile duct obstruction or jaundice without accurate diagnosis (20.8)
Acute biliary pancreatitis (7.8)
Acute cholangitis (7.2)
Suissa et al. [23] 2004 Prospective 722 Suspected CBD stone (58)
Suspected tumor of the pancreas/bile duct (30)
Post cholecystectomy complications (leak/stenosis) (6)
Treatment of chronic pancreatitis (1)
Diagnostic (5)
Testoni et al. [24] 2010 Prospective 3635 Choledocholithiasis (45.5)
Known or suspected malignant biliary stricture (19.7)
Cholangitis (6.5)
Suspected SOD (4.3)
Chronic pancreatitis (3.7)
Vitte and Morfoisse [25] 2007 Prospective 2708 Lithiasis of the CBD (62.5)
Stenosis by tumor (22.5)
Revision after ERCP with endoscopic sphincterotomy (18.3)
Postoperative biliary complications (3.3)
Williams et al. [26] 2007 Prospective 4561 Ductal stones (w/o coexisting pancreatitis or cholangitis) (54.3)
Malignancy, including jaundice with dilated duct w/o evidence of
stones (19.5)
Pancreatitis (acute and chronic) (9.5)
Cholangitis (5.4)
Biliary leak (2.2)

Table 4. Frequency of ERCP indications used in publications by literature search.

Frequency (total times reported as an Frequency (number of times reported
Type of indication Indication indication) with defining criteria)
Clinical observation Pancreaticobiliary pain 3
Jaundice 6
Imaging abnormalities Imaging abnormality of the bile duct 2
Objective laboratory data Abnormal liver function tests 5
Procedural intention Change/removal of stent 5
Suspected or apparent diagnosis Cholelithiasis 11 1
Malignant stenosis 10 2
Biliary leak 10 0
Chronic pancreatitis 9 1
Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction 8 1
Benign stenosis 7 1
Cholangitis 7 0
Acute pancreatitis 4 0
Biliary pancreatitis 3 0
Bile duct injury or trauma 3 0
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53,394 ERCP procedures. A summary of the publications New a-priori system for ERCP indications and its
included in the study is shown in Table 3. The indications evaluation
found to be used in the reviewed literature are grouped and
ERCP indications were closely associated with the ERCP find-
shown in Table 4 in terms of how many papers utilized each
ings. Figures 2 and 3 show for each ERCP indication the
indication. For example, only two of 12 papers used Imaging
respective ERCP findings. Statistical analysis of the results is
abnormalities as an indication for ERCP.
shown in Table 5.
There were relatively few indications in categories that
were not based on pre-ERCP diagnoses. The most frequent
indication was stones, followed closely by malignant sten- Primary indications (listed in Table 1)
osis and biliary leak (reported 10 times each), and this pre- Eight hundred and seventy-six patients (49.8%) had primary
ERCP diagnosis of stones was qualified as suspected five indications. The most common primary indication was
times. There was only a single study in which stones/sus- change/removal of stent for benign disease (16.2%). As
pected stones was not considered to be an indication for expected, well over half the patients with the indication of
ERCP [4]. Out of the indications that were not based on a cholangitis had stones. Similarly, patients whose indication
pre-ERCP diagnosis, the most frequent was jaundice was an abnormal IOC during cholecystectomy had a finding
(reported six times). of common bile duct stone at subsequent ERCP in 52.5% of
Importantly, it is not made clear on the basis of which cases (74 of 141 cases). However, in keeping with previous
parameters the suspected or apparent diagnoses were made. studies a substantial proportion of patients with abnormal
Table 4 also shows the frequency with which defining param- IOC were found to have normal cholangiograms at ERCP (51
eters were mentioned, specifically for indications that presup- of 141 cases) [8]. Of the patients who underwent ERCP for
pose a diagnosis. When suspected or apparent diagnoses clinical evidence of a bile leak, cholangiographic evidence of
were provided as indications, defining parameters were pro- a bile leak was found in 25 out of 44 cases. Of the 193
vided in only 8% of the cases. As examples, Christensen et al. patients undergoing ERCP for acute pancreatitis, 91 were nor-
[5] described the basis of suspected stones as Suspected bile mal and 44 had a stone at ERCP, reflecting the fact that small
duct stones at ultrasound, magnetic resonance or chol- stones, which may not be evident at ERCP, often cause pan-
angiography. An American prospective study using the creatitis. Acute biliary pancreatitis was associated with no
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopys (ASGE) cholangiogram being obtained (31 of 193 cases, v2(1) 10.1,
indications [6] described the basis of a pancreatic malignancy p .001). The failure to gain access to the biliary tree in
as signs/symptoms suggesting pancreatic malignancy when these cases may be attributable to swelling and distortion of
direct imaging is equivocal or normal [7]. Notwithstanding the ampulla and the neighboring duodenum related to pan-
these examples, in the majority of cases where suspected or creatic swelling.
apparent diagnoses were used as indications, no definitions
of the diagnoses were stated and there was no mention of Secondary indications (used only if patients did not fall
which signs, symptoms or investigation results led to sus- into one of the six primary indications)
pected diagnoses. In short, the majority of ERCP indications Eight hundred and eighty-two patients (50.2%) had second-
are provided as suspected or apparent diagnoses, and with- ary indications at least two of pain (P), imaging evidence
out definition, it is not clear how objectively these diagnoses (I), and significant abnormalities in LFTs (L).
were made nor how justified were the suspicions of the diag- The subtypes of the secondary indications were predictive
nosis, in which a suspected diagnosis was used as an of ERCP findings. The subtype with both imaging abnormal-
indication. ities and LFT abnormalities (IL) and the subtype with all

Findings of ERCP in those performed for primary indicaons

11 6 18
4 31 8
11 5
80% 8
51 85
70% 19 25

Biliary leak
60% 91
9 N/A
1 39
48 23
40% Normal
101 Dilated duct
30% 23
2 74 Stricture
20% 111 CBD stone

10% 44
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0% 1 2
Cholangis Biliary AP IOC C/ROSM C/ROSB
Primary indicaons
Figure 2. Percentages of the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) findings in those performed with primary indications. AP: acute (biliary) pan-
creatitis; IOC: intraoperative cholangiogram; C/ROSM: change or removal of stent for malignant disease; C/ROSB: change or removal of stent for benign disease.

Findings of ERCP in those performed for secondary indicatons

45 3 9 5
90% 3 3 31
51 10
80% 4 9
47 10
14 N/A
60% 104
15 Other
3 Normal
40% 11 113 Dilated duct
30% 11 Stricture
225 23 6 CBD Stone
10% 8
Seconary indicaons
Figure 3. Percentages of the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) findings in those performed with secondary indications. P: epigastric or
right upper quadrant pain; I: imaging suggestive of significant abnormalities of the bile duct; L: significant abnormalities in LFTs.

three components (PIL) were both associated with the pres- stones (35 of 128 cases, v2(1) 4.7, p .031) and stricture (11
ence of biliary stricture (113 of 179 cases, v2(1) 255, of 128 cases, v2(1) 9.5, p .002).
p < .001, and 104 of 475 cases, v2(1) 3.8, p .049, respect-
ively). Only if all three components (PIL) were present, there
was a statistically significant association with choledocholi- Adverse events
thiasis (225 of 475 cases, v2(1) 35.3, p < .001). Conversely, Figure 4 shows the ERCP indications compared against the
the secondary indication combination of pain and imaging occurrence of post-ERCP adverse events. Only two ERCP indi-
abnormalities (PI) was associated with a finding of dilated cations were significantly associated with the occurrence of
bile duct (14 of 53 cases, v2(1) 18.2, p < .001) and the adverse events: the combination subtype with PI (15 of 53
absence of stricture (3 of 53 cases, v2(1) 6.2, p .012). The cases, v2(1) 17.0, p < .001), and the other group (10 of 47
subtype of pain and LFT abnormalities (PL) was associated cases, v2(1) 5.3, p .021). Each was significantly associated
with normal cholangiography at ERCP (59 of 128 cases, with unplanned/prolonged hospitalization from all adverse
v2(1) 44.8, p < .001), but negatively associated both with events. Interestingly, neither PI nor other were significantly

Table 5. P-values for associations according to ERCP indication.

ERCP findings
ERCP indications Biliary leak Dilated duct Normal N/A Other Stone Stricture Complication
(PIL) 0.731 0.000 0.865 0.013 0.000 0.049 0.983
(PI) 0.000 0.536 0.316 0.624 0.267 0.012 0.000
(PL) 0.717 0.000 0.294 0.738 0.031 0.002 0.076
(IL) 0.060 0.000 0.000 0.805 0.000 0.000 0.889
Acute (biliary) pancreatitis 0.225 0.000 0.001 0.421 0.000 0.000 0.148
Biliary leak 0.000 0.256 0.160 0.310 0.218 0.000 0.014 0.062
C/ROSB 0.008 0.001 0.038 0.276 0.266 0.000 0.022
C/ROSM 0.011 0.008 0.721 0.630 0.000 0.000 0.135
Cholangitis 0.056 0.000 0.267 0.541 0.000 0.030 0.192
IOC 0.188 0.000 0.023 0.108 0.000 0.000 0.499
Other 1.000 0.111 0.801 0.000 0.006 0.277 0.021
Entries in bold indicate statistically significant associations (p < .05) that are positive in nature. Entries in italic indicate statistically significant associations
(p < .05) that are negative in nature. C/ROSB: change or removal of stent for benign disease. C/ROSM: change or removal of stent for malignant disease; IOC:
intraoperative cholangiogram.
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ERCP related adverse events according to ERCP indicaons




60% 37 No adverse
423 108 166
160 264 142 128 events
50% 43 57

10% 10
52 20 27
19 20 12 13
0% 1 3

Figure 4. Percentages of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) related adverse events according to ERCP indications.

associated with post-ERCP pancreatitis. The unplanned/pro- such an approach is intrinsically unscientific as presupposing
longed hospitalization was thus due to factors other than a diagnosis can never substitute for an objective evaluation
post-ERCP pancreatitis. of a patient before the diagnosis (and any associated therapy
such as sphincterotomy or biliary stenting performed during
ERCP) is made. Although the a-priori indication system that
Discussion was used in our study uses some indications that presuppose
a diagnosis (e.g., acute biliary pancreatitis and cholangitis) as
For a new indication system for ERCP to be considered use-
primary indications, the diagnoses we used as indications, in
ful, it should be established that: first, it constitutes a signifi-
contradistinction to previous unselected series, were carefully
cant improvement on currently used indication criteria and
defined by clear clinical parameters that could be ascertained
second, it is helpful in predicting, on the one hand, which
prior to ERCP.
patients are most likely to benefit from ERCP and on the The new classification system was shown to be predictive
other hand, in which patients ERCP constitute an unaccept- of findings found at ERCP. This was entirely expected for
able risk. indications such as cholangitis in which a majority of affected
Regarding the first aim, it is clear that in previous series of patients had stones demonstrated within the common bile
unselected ERCPs there has been widespread use of ERCP duct. The other primary indications [clinical evidence of bil-
indications that pre-suppose diagnoses or suspected diagno- iary leak, acute (biliary) pancreatitis, abnormal IOC, change/
ses. This could be reflective of the trend away from using removal of stent for benign disease, and change/removal of
diagnostic ERCP in favor of therapeutic ERCP [2]. This trend stent for malignant disease] are also uncontroversial and the
may have influenced the classification of ERCP indications as findings in patients with these indications were also unsur-
it is easier to define therapeutic goals if there has been a prising. The exact clinical context in which acute biliary pan-
presumptive diagnosis made before the procedure. However, creatitis should lead to an ERCP and the timing of such an

ERCP are hotly debated in the literature [9]. It is clear none- been previously reported by our group [16]. In addition, pan-
theless that biliary pancreatitis is an appropriate indication creatic indications such as endotherapy for pancreatic ductal
for ERCP in many instances. There are other causes of pan- strictures and stones, minor ampullary pancreatic sphincterot-
creatitis, for which ERCP has been used but these are either omy for recurrent pancreatitis in the context of pancreas divi-
quite rare (pancreas divisum) or controversial (idiopathic pan- sum are also uncommon and often performed in quaternary
creatitis without any evidence of gallstone disease). In add- referral centres. The development of indication classification
ition, the pre-procedure exclusion of IgG4-related pancreatic systems related to these more uncommon scenarios would
disease may be important in some clinical scenarios. be complementary rather than competitive to the indications
The proposed classification system is not only worthwhile classification system outlined in the current study. Sphincter
for the relatively uncontroversial and straightforward primary of Oddi dysfunction or suspected sphincter of Oddi dys-
indications, but also contributes significantly to establishing a function was avoided as indications as this also presupposes
system of indications in clinical scenarios in which the role of a pre-procedure diagnosis or suspected diagnosis. The exact
ERCP is not so clear. Abdominal pain, imaging abnormalities nature of this entity is controversial in any case [17].
of the bile duct, and deranged LFTs were used as secondary The presented classification system is only a starting point
indications. Different combinations of these parameters, for refining indications in ERCP. It is often the pattern of the
which do not presuppose a diagnosis, have different associa- symptoms and investigation abnormalities which can sway a
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tions with ERCP findings. Patients presenting with the com- clinician to proceed with ERCP. For instance, a sudden
bination of PI commonly had a subsequent ERCP that change in LFTs and a sudden resolution or partial resolution
demonstrated the presence of a dilated bile duct in the increase the likelihood of choledocholithiasis being found.
absence of a stricture or stone. The combination of PIL was Similarly, severe pain with sudden onset is more suggestive
similarly associated with subsequent ERCP demonstration of of choledocholithiasis rather than a chronic mild pain of less
stones and strictures. The combination of PL was, however, acute onset. Specifying these patterns in indication defini-
associated with a normal cholangiogram a finding that is tions, however, risks over-defining without any improvement
less likely to lead to an ERCP-related benefit. Interestingly, in objectivity.
the combination of IL was associated with lack of access In conclusion, we have presented an ERCP indication clas-
into the bile duct. This analysis of secondary indications sification system, which is simple, easy to understand and
shows that patients with status of PI and PL may require intrinsically more scientific than its predecessors. In our ser-
additional evidence before ERCP is considered. In this ies, it has been shown to be useful in predicting the success
respect, endoscopic ultrasound may have a significant role as rate, findings, and adverse events of ERCP and we are confi-
it becomes more widespread and refined.
dent that it will prove useful in advancing the science of
These findings complement research that supports the
ERCP in general and thereby in the longer-term reducing
idea that a greater focus on objective parameters can result
unnecessary procedures and their related morbidity and
in indications for ERCP that reduce unnecessary procedures
[1013]. Parnaby et al. [10] in a small study of 153 consecu-
tive patients developed an algorithm based on clinical,
laboratory, and radiological data and showed that this pre- Acknowledgements
dicted the need for ERCP. With respect to choledocholithiasis,
The authors thank Dr. Linda Lee of The Brigham and Womens Hospital,
Jovanovic et al. [12] have also evaluated an effective model Boston, for her help in reviewing this paper.
for predicting the need for therapeutic ERCP using biochem-
ical and ultrasound results.
It is acknowledged that a similar approach to ours has Disclosure statement
been used previously but only in terms of attempting to No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
determine the likelihood of choledocholithiasis. In an ASGE
endorsed guideline, Maple et al. [13] proposed a series of
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