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Original Article
April 1, 2005

Gallbladder Disease in Cardiac Transplant Patients: A Survey Study

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Surgery, Section of General Surgery (Drs Englesbe, Dubay, Pelletier, Punch, and Franz), and the Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Cardiology (Heart Failure[[ndash]]Transplant) (Dr Wu), University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor.

Arch Surg. 2005;140(4):399-403. doi:10.1001/archsurg.140.4.399

Hypothesis  Preemptive cholecystectomy in cardiac transplant patients with radiographic biliary pathology reduces the morbidity and mortality of biliary tract disease following heart transplantation compared with expectant management.

Design and Setting  Institutional survey at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Patients  Cardiac transplant recipients between January 1, 1992, and January 1, 2001.

Main Outcome Measure  Clinical course of patients who were diagnosed as having biliary tract disease following heart transplantation and were managed expectantly (observed) compared with the course of patients whose conditions were diagnosed and who underwent an operation.

Results  Sixty (35.7%) of 168 cardiac transplant patients were evaluated for biliary tract pathologic condition. Of the 71.7% (43 of 60 patients) who had an abnormal radiographic evaluation, 46.5% (20 patients) had surgery on their biliary tract while the other patients were observed. Nine of the 23 patients who were followed up expectantly had cholelithiasis, 7 patients had gallbladder wall thickening, 5 patients had sludge in their gallbladder, and 2 had biliary dilatation. These patients were followed up for a mean ± SD of 3.7 ± 1.3 years; none developed biliary tract symptoms during this period. Cholecystectomies were completed for both emergent (7) and elective (14) indications. The mean ± SD length of stay for patients who had emergent operations was 24.3 ± 11.2 days, compared with 3.2 ± 2.8 days for the patients who had elective operations. Seven (33%) of the 21 patients who had an operation had a significant complication and 1 patient died.

Conclusions  These data suggest that the morbidity of an elective cholecystectomy in cardiac transplant patients is significant and equivalent to the morbidity associated with emergent procedures. Expectant management of patients with radiographic evidence of biliary tract pathology discovered after transplantation was safe in this series.