Utility of bile duct brushings for the early detection of cholangiocarcinoma in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis

Stephen L. Moff, Douglas P. Clark, Anirban Maitra, Akhilesh Pandey, Paul J. Thuluvath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: In patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, there are no reliable markers or imaging modalities to detect malignant changes or early cholangiocarcinoma when curative interventions may still be possible. METHODS: Clinical features and outcomes were evaluated for 47 patients who underwent 101 endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedures with bile duct brushings and cytopathologic examination for the detection of malignant changes between January 2001 and 2004. Bile duct cytology was characterized as unsatisfactory, benign, atypical, or malignant. RESULTS: Fifteen patients had at least one sample that was abnormal. Patients with abnormal findings were older (P=0.03); otherwise the groups were similar. Three of six patients with marked atypia have undergone transplantation for these abnormal findings, and of these, two had cholangiocarcinoma and one had no cancer detected in the explant. Of the nine patients with focal atypia, seven are doing well, one underwent transplantation for marked atypia seen on brushings at another hospital, and the other underwent transplantation for decompensated cirrhosis. Two patients with benign findings developed cholangiocarcinoma, whereas 29 others have not. CONCLUSION: Cytopathologic examination of bile duct brushings taken at ERCP may be useful for the early detection of malignant changes in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. However, long-term prospective studies are needed to confirm the utility of surveillance ERCP and brushings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-341
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of clinical gastroenterology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006


  • Bile duct cytology
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • ERCP
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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