Radiofrequency ablation combined with biliary stent placement versus stent placement alone for malignant biliary strictures: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Published:November 03, 2017DOI:

      Background and Aims

      Unresectable malignant biliary strictures are generally managed by palliative stent placement for drainage of biliary tree. Recently, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has been used to improve the patency of biliary stents in these patients. Several studies have evaluated the effectiveness of biliary stent placement with RFA on stent patency and patient survival with variable results. We performed this meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy and safety of biliary stent placement with RFA compared with stent placement alone in patients with malignant biliary strictures.


      We performed a comprehensive search of electronic databases for all studies comparing RFA with biliary stent placement versus stent placement only. Measured outcomes included patient survival, stent patency, and procedure-related adverse events. An inverse variance method was used to pool data on stent patency into a random-effects model. Cox-regression analysis was used to calculate hazard ratio for survival analysis. We used the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) framework to interpret our findings.


      Nine studies (including 2 abstracts) with a total of 505 patients were included in the meta-analysis. The pooled weighted mean difference in stent patency was 50.6 days (95% confidence interval [CI], 32.83-68.48), favoring patients receiving RFA. Pooled survival analysis of the reconstructed Kaplan-Meier data showed improved survival in patients treated with RFA (hazard ratio, 1.395; 95% CI, 1.145-1.7; P < .001). However, RFA was associated with a higher risk of postprocedural abdominal pain (31% vs 20%, P = .003). Our analysis did not show significant difference between the RFA and stent placement–only groups with regard to the risk of cholangitis, acute cholecystitis, pancreatitis, and hemobilia.


      In the light of this limited data based on observational studies, RFA was found to be safe and was associated with improved stent patency in patients with malignant biliary strictures. In addition, RFA may be associated with improved survival in these patients.


      CI (confidence interval), RFA (radiofrequency ablation), SEMS (self-expanding metal stents)
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