BACKGROUND Post-liver-transplant biliary anastomotic strictures (ASs) are currently managed with repeated endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographies (ERCPs) inserting multiple plastic stents. Fully covered self-expanding metal stents (FCSEMSs) are being increasingly reported in the management of this condition, however no prospective randomized trials have been performed to date. AIM The aim of this study was to determine whether FCSEMSs decrease overall numbers of ERCPs needed to achieve stricture resolution and to establish the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness in this setting. METHODS Two tertiary referral centres performed this open-label prospective randomized trial. A total of 32 patients consented and subsequently 20 were randomized with 10 in the FCSEMS arm and 10 in the plastic arm. The FCSEMS arm had the stent in situ for 12 weeks with the plastic stent arm undergoing 3-monthly multiple plastic stenting with or without dilatation over a year. RESULTS The median number of ERCPs performed per patient in the FCSEMS was 2 versus 4.5 (p = 0.0001) in the plastic stenting arm. Stricture resolution was achieved in all 10 patients with FCSEMSs compared with 8/10 in the plastic arm [p = not significant (NS)]. Complications occurred in 1/10 patients in the FCSEMS arm versus 5/10 in the plastic arm (p = 0.051). Days in hospital for complications was 6 in the FCSEMS versus 56 in the plastic arm (p = 0.11). Cost analysis shows that the FCSEMS arm was more cost effective. No cases of FCSEMS migration were seen. CONCLUSIONS FCSEMSs reduced the number of ERCPs needed to achieve stricture resolution with similar recurrence rates between arms. The FCSEMSs may do so with fewer complications making it cost effective.
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