Nonsurgical biliary drainage offers a therapeutic alternative in the palliation of malignant obstructive jaundice. Two basic approaches are available. The percutaneous transhepatic method can be employed either for external drainage or for the placement of an internal endoprosthesis. In the case of the transduodenal, transpapillary approach, either a pigtail catheter can be placed, after prior papillotomy, or - with or without the need to split the papillar - a nasobiliary drainage tube can be introduced. Successful drainage was achieved in 67 patients. In the majority of cases, external drainage was performed as a palliative measure in inoperable carcinoma of the biliodigestive system. In addition, however, pre-operative temporary drainage was also carried out to reduce the risks of surgery in patients with severe obstructive jaundice. The complication rate was low. Apart from biliary peritonitis, cholangitis and minor bleeds were observed. The rate of failure for technical reasons was a relatively low 10%.