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March 1995

Biliary Tract Complications After Liver Transplantation

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Transplantation, Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Dr O'Connor), and Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, New England Deaconess Hospital (Drs Lewis and Jenkins), Boston, Mass.

Arch Surg. 1995;130(3):312-317. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1995.01430030082017

Objective:  To assess the incidence, type, and treatment of biliary complications after orthotopic liver transplantation.

Design:  Case series.

Setting:  Tertiary referral center.

Patients:  One hundred ninety consecutive adults who underwent 220 orthotopic liver transplantations with biliary reconstruction between January 1, 1989, and December 31, 1993, with follow-up of all survivors to May 1994.

Main Outcome Measures:  Incidence, type, and treatment of biliary complications.

Results:  Biliary complications were identified in 65 of the 190 patients who underwent biliary reconstruction (49 of 147 with choledochocholedochostomy and 16 of 43 with Roux-en-Y choledochojejunostomy). The group with complications who had choledochocholedochostomy had 32 biliary leaks (22 T-tube related), 11 strictures or obstructions, and six cases of choledocholithiasis. Twelve percent of choledochocholedochostomies were converted to choledochojejunostomies, while 26 of 49 biliary complications in patients who had choledochocholedochostomies were treated nonoperatively. Elective removal of T tubes resulted in biliary leak in 15 of 89 patients, treated nonoperatively in 12. Leaks (unrelated to scheduled removal of the tube) occurred earlier than strictures (choledochocholedochostomy, mean±SEM 25.6±5.8 vs 184.7±61.0 days; choledochojejunostomy, 13.4±4.4 vs 521.0±142.0 days) and were more often treated operatively (choledochocholedochostomy, 14 of 17 vs three of seven; choledochojejunostomy, four of five vs three of eight). Three deaths were associated with early biliary leaks, all in patients with preexisting multiorgan dysfunction. There was no significant difference in the incidence of biliary complications by type of reconstruction, year of transplantation, age, UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) status, preservation time, or indication for transplantation.

Conclusions:  Biliary complications are common after orthotopic liver transplantation but are rarely an isolated cause of death. Stenting of the choledochocholedochostomy or choledochojejunostomy anastomosis does not prevent strictures, and T tubes are associated with a high incidence of biliary leakage on removal. Nonoperative interventions have an increasing role in the treatment of biliary complications.(Arch Surg. 1995;130:312-317)

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