Mirizzi Syndrome

constanza godoy's picture
Constanza Godoy S., medical student / Carlos Riquelme, MD
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Figure Legends : 


Figure 1a: an ultrasonography (US) image shows thick-wallgallbladder full of gallstones with posterior acoustic shadow.

Figure 1b: (US) the image shows gas (pneumobilia) in the intra and extrahepatic biliary tree.Extrahepatic biliary tree discretely dilatated.

Figure 2a, 2b:Coronal reformat images of a gadolinium enhanced phase in a MRCP study show communication of the gallbladder with  distal stomach antrum and with a long segment of the common hepatic duct. 

Case Description

Clinical History: 

A 72 year-old woman presents in the E.R. with right upper quadrant pain and obstructive jaundice. 


Mirizzi Syndrome 


Mirizzi syndrome is a rare cause of obstructive jaundice. First described by Mirizzi in 1948, this syndrome refers to stone impaction in the neck of the gallbladder or the cystic duct, with subsequent inflammation and extrinsic compression of the main bile duct leading to obstructive jaundice and cholangitis (type I Mirizzi syndrome) In more advanced cases, cholecystocholedochal fistulas can be seen (type II Mirizzi syndrome) and there can also be cholecystoduodenal, cholecystocolonic, and cholecystogastric fistulas[i],[ii],[iii],[iv][v]. Mirizzi syndrome is often not recognized preoperatively, which can lead to significant morbidity and biliary injury, particularly with laparoscopic surgery[vi].

This rare gallstone disease complication is seen 0,1% to 0,7% of the patients with gallstones. Mirizzi syndrome is also associated with a higher risk of gallbladder cancer (more than 25% in this group of patients)[vii], and sometimes it is difficult to exclude concomitant neoplasic disease of the gallbladder.

The most common clinical presentation includes jaundice, fever, and right upper quadrant pain[viii], in association with elevated alkaline phosphatase and bilirrubin serum level in more than 90 percent of patients.

As in every obstructive jaundice diagnostic approach, the ultrasonography (US) is in the Mirizzi syndrome frequently a first-line diagnostic examination, as it is the procedure of choice for the initial evaluation of cholestasis and for helping differentiate extrahepatic from intrahepatic causes of jaundice.

  • The US in the Mirizzi syndrome can show (1) dilatation of the biliary system above the level of the gallbladder neck, (2) a stone impacted in the gallbladder neck and (3) narrowing of the CHD at the level of impaction and an abrupt change to a normal width of the common duct below the level of the stone[ix],[x].
  • The magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is the following diagnostic study and can show (1) an impacted stone in the gallbladder neck (2) compression of the common hepatic duct (3) dilatation of the biliary system above the level of impaction and (4) a contracted gallbladder with wall-thickening[xi]. Additional sequences should be used to exclude the presence of malignancy.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scanning does not significantly add to sonographic findings with respect to the stone and biliary obstruction.
  • Finally, the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is probably the criterion standard. Typical findings are (1) dilatation of the biliary system (2) visible calculus in the expected position of the cystic duct (3) smooth, lateral, and extrinsically compressed common hepatic duct and (4) gallbladder exclusion[xii]. ERCP also can be used to temporarily relieve stenosis by means of stent placement.
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) may also be used for diagnosis, if ERCP fails[xiii].

Surgery is the mainstay of therapy of Mirizzi syndrome. If the diagnosis of Mirizzi syndrome is made preoperatively, an operative strategy that minimizes the risk of injury to the biliary tract can be carried out.

The surgical approach depends on the variant of the Mirizzi syndrome, and it includes cholecystectomy plus common bile duct exploration with T-tube placement, fistula suture with absorbable material or choledochoplasty with the remnant gallbladder, and bilioenteric anastomosis when the entire wall of the common bile duct has been destroyed[xiv]. The operative mortality and postoperative morbidity increase according to the severity of the lesion.

There is still controversy about the use of laparoscopic surgery for Mirizzi syndrome because of the anatomical distortion, so it has been suggested to perform a laparoscopic dissection trial and convert to an open procedure if local conditions are not clear[xv].

Endoscopic management can also be attempted to decompress the bile duct or gallbladder, but usually as a temporizing measure before surgery or as a definitive treatment for unsuitable surgical candidates[xvi].

References / Suggested Reading: 

[i]Norton J. Greenberger, Richard S. Blumberg, Robert Burakoff. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Endoscopy. The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009.

[ii]Anthony S. Fauci, Eugene Braunwald, Dennis L. Kasper, Stephen L. Hauser, Dan L. Longo, J. Larry Jameson, and Joseph Loscalzo, Eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. Seventeenth Edition,2008.

[iii]Frank H. Miller and Gregory T. Sica Mirizzi Syndrome Associated with Gallbladder Cancer and Biliary-Enteric Fistulas – Case Report. American Roentgen Ray Society, Julio 1996.

[iv]Jill Zaliekas, J. Lawrence Munson. Complications of Gallstones: The Mirizzi Syndrome, Gallstone Ileus, Gallstone Pancreatitis, Complications of “Lost” Gallstones. Surgical Clinics of North America, Volume 88, Issue 6 (December 2008).  

[v]Francisco Cruz O, Juan Pablo Cruz Q, José Luis Winter del R. Atlas radiología abdominal online. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

[vi]Yip AW; Chow WC; Chan J; Lam KH. Mirizzi syndrome with cholecystocholedochal fistula: preoperative diagnosis and management. Surgery 1992 Mar;111(3):335-8.

[vii]Redaelli CA, Buchler MW, Schilling MK, Krahenbuhl L, Ruchti C, Blumgart LH, Baer HU. High coincidence of Mirizzi syndrome and gallbladder carcinoma. Surgery 1997 Jan;121(1):58-63.

[viii]Ibrarullah M, Saxena R, Sikora SS, Kapoor VK, Saraswat VA, Kaushik SP. Mirizzi's syndrome: identification and management strategy. Aust N Z J Surg 1993 Oct;63(10):802-6

[ix]Becker CD, Hassler H, Terrier F. Preoperative diagnosis of the Mirizzi syndrome: limitations of sonography and computed tomography. AJR Am J Roentgenol 1984 Sep;143(3):591-6.

[x]Jeffrey W Ross, Gary S Sudakoff, Gregory B Snyder. Mirizzi Syndrome Imaging. Emedicine Radioloy

 [xi]Jeffrey W Ross, Gary S Sudakoff, Gregory B Snyder. Mirizzi Syndrome Imaging. Emedicine Radiology

 [xii]Pemberton M, Wells AD. The Mirizzi syndrome. Postgrad Med J. Aug 1997;73(862):487-90

[xiii]Jeffrey W Ross, Gary S Sudakoff, Gregory B Snyder. Mirizzi Syndrome Imaging. Emedicine Radiology

 [xiv]Baer HU, Matthews JB, Schweizer WP, Gertsch P, Blumgart LH.Management of the Mirizzi syndrome and the surgical implications of cholecystcholedochal fistula. Br J Surg 1990 Jul;77(7):743-5.

 xv]Targarona EM; Andrade E; Balague C; Ardid J; Trias M. Mirizzi's syndrome. Diagnostic and therapeutic controversies in the laparoscopic era.Surg Endosc 1997 Aug;11(8):842-5.

 [xvi]England RE; Martin DF. Endoscopic management of Mirizzi's syndrome.Gut 1997 Feb;40(2):272-6.  


Mirizzi Syndrome, Constanza Godoy S., medical student / Carlos Riquelme, MD, Imaging Science Today, 2010, 2218.


wahbeh's picture
Joined: 09/08/2009

thank you for the case

Dr.Husam Wahbeh
Hacettepe University
Radiology Dep. Ankara-Turkey