Utilizing CT to identify clinically significant biliary dilatation in symptomatic post-cholecystectomy patients: when should we be worried?

Imo I. Uko*, Cecil Wood, Edward Nguyen, Annie Huang, Roberta Catania, Amir A. Borhani, Jeanne M. Horowitz, Helena Gabriel, Rajesh Keswani, Paul Nikolaidis, Frank H. Miller, Linda C. Kelahan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To determine a reliable threshold common duct diameter on CT, in combination with other ancillary CT and clinical parameters, at which the likelihood of pathology requiring further imaging or intervention is increased in post-cholecystectomy patients. Methods: In this IRB approved retrospective study, two attending radiologists independently reviewed CT imaging for 118 post-cholecystectomy patients, who were subsequently evaluated with MRCP, ERCP, or EUS, prompted by findings on the CT and clinical status. Measurements of the common duct (CD) were obtained at the porta hepatis, distal duct, and point of maximal dilation on axial and coronal CT scans. Patients were grouped by whether they required intervention after follow-up imaging. Pertinent baseline lab values and patient demographics were reviewed. Results: Of the 118 post-cholecystectomy patients, 38 patients (31%) required intervention, and 80 patients (69%) did not require intervention after follow-up imaging. For both readers, axial and coronal CD diameters were significantly higher in the ‘intervention required’ vs ‘no intervention’ groups at all locations (p value < 0.05). There was good to excellent inter-reader agreement at all locations (ICC 0.68–0.92). Pertinent baseline lab values including AST (p = 0.043), ALT (p = 0.001), alkaline phosphatase (p = 0.0001), direct bilirubin (p = 0.011), total bilirubin (p = 0.028), and WBC (p = 0.043) were significantly higher in the ‘intervention required’ group. CD thresholds of 8 mm yielded the highest sensitivities (76–95%), and CD thresholds of 12 mm yielded the highest specificities (65–78%). CD combined with bilirubin levels increased sensitivity and specificity, compared to using either feature alone. Conclusion: Dilated CD on CT combined with bilirubin levels increases the sensitivity and specificity for identifying patients needing intervention. We recommend that a post-cholecystectomy patient who presents with a CD diameter > 10 mm on CT and elevated bilirubin levels should undergo further clinical and imaging follow-up. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4126-4138
Number of pages13
JournalAbdominal Radiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Biliary ductal dilatation
  • Bilirubin
  • Common duct diameter
  • MRCP
  • Post-cholecystectomy
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Gastroenterology
  • Urology


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