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Revista Colombiana de Gastroenterologia

Print version ISSN 0120-9957


GOMEZ ZULETA, Martín Alonso; RUIZ MORALES, Óscar Fernando  and  OTERO REGINO, William. What is the normal size of the common bile duct?. Rev Col Gastroenterol [online]. 2017, vol.32, n.2, pp.99-106. ISSN 0120-9957.

Traditionally, the common bile duct (CBD) has been said to measure up to 6 mm in patients with gallbladders and up to 8 mm in cholecystectomized patients. However, these recommendations are based on very old studies performed with trans-abdominal ultrasound. Echoendoscopy has greater sensitivity and specificity for evaluating the bile duct, but studies had not yet been done in our population to evaluate the normal size of the CBD by this method.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the size of the CBD in patients with gallbladders and patients without gallbladders.

Materials and Methods:

This is a prospective descriptive study of patients who underwent echoendoscopy at the gastroenterology unit in the El Tunal hospital, Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Patients had been referred for diagnostic echoendoscopy to evaluate subepithelial lesions in the esophagus and/or stomach. Once the lesion had been evaluated and an echoendoscopic diagnosis had been established, the transducer was advanced to the second duodenal portion to perform bilio-pancreatic echoendoscopy. The size of CBC at the hepatic artery was measured to avoid altering the size of the CBC. These data were collected in online forms in Google drive that were filled out during the echoendoscopic procedure. A scatter plot was graphed and analyzed to assess the size of the common bile duct in the entire study population.


The study took place between January 2013 and September 2013 during which time 100 echoendoscopies were performed for subepithelial lesions in the upper digestive tract. The average patient age was 55.6 years, 65% of the patients were women, 18% of the patients had had previous cholecystectomies and 50% of these patients were women. The average common bile duct size was 4.88 mm (range: 2.6 to 7 mm). In the group with intact gallbladders (88%) the average CBC was 4.16 mm (range 2.6 to 6 mm), among women with intact gallbladders the average CBC was 3.9 mm (range 2.6 to 5 mm) and among men with intact gallbladders the average CBC was 4.42 mm (range 3 to 6 mm). In the group of cholecystectomized patients the average CBC was 4.88 mm (range 3 to 7 mm), in the group of cholecystectomized women the average was 4.84 mm (range 4.6 to 7 mm), and among cholecystectomized men the average was 4.92 mm (range: 3 to 7 mm).


Our study shows that the normal size of the common bile duct is 4.16 mm. This is smaller than the size accepted by the literature and than the 4.88 mm in cholecystectomy patients. This is interesting, since if the common bile duct is indeed larger following cholecystectomy, we could discard biliopancreatic pathology with diagnostic echoendoscopy.

Keywords : Common bile duct; echography; echoendoscopy; choledocholithiasis..

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