Role of biliary tract cytology in the evaluation of extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice

Mamta Gupta, Radha Pai, Devi Dileep, Sandeep Gopal, Suresh Shenoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Endoscopic evaluation is critical in assessing the cause of obstructive jaundice. Cytological techniques including bile aspiration and biliary brushings have become the initial diagnostic modality. Aim: The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of endoscopic biliary tract cytology as a diagnostic tool in the evaluation of extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice. Materials and Methods: A total of 56 biliary tract specimens including 34 bile aspirations and 22 biliary brushings from 41 consecutive patients who had presented with obstructive jaundice and underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) were assessed by cytological examination. The smears prepared were analyzed for standard cytological features. Results: Cytologic diagnosis was adenocarcinoma in 13 (31.7%) cases, atypical in 2 (4.9%), reactive in 3 (7.3%) and benign changes in 19 (46.3%) cases. 4 (9.8%) cases were non-diagnostic. Serum bilirubin was significantly elevated in the malignant group. Biliary stricture was the most common finding on ERCP (68.3%). On cytological examination, presence of solitary, intact atypical cells, enlarged nuclei, irregular nuclear membrane, coarse chromatin and nucleoli were important cytologic criteria for differentiating malignant from benign biliary specimens. Conclusions: Regular use of bile cytology and brushings during ERCP evaluation of extrahepatic cholestatic jaundice is invaluable in obtaining a morphologic diagnosis. A systematic approach, use of strict cytomorphologic criteria and inclusion of significant atypia as malignant diagnosis may improve the sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-168
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cytology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01-07-2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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