Background: Surgery, percutaneous cholangiography, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) have been used in the management of biliary complications after orthotopic liver transplantation with varied results. We assessed the role of ERCP in the diagnosis, treatment, and outcome of post-orthotopic liver transplantation biliary complications.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the records of 260 patients who underwent orthotopic liver transplantation. We examined the number of patients referred for ERCP and the indication, diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, success, and complication rate of ERCP post orthotopic liver transplantation. We compared the survival and retransplantation rates of the patients who underwent ERCP with a control group of post-orthotopic liver transplantation patients not undergoing ERCP.
Results: Of the 260 patients undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation, 64 (24.6%) underwent 137 ERCPs. Two categories of indications for ERCP were identified: bile leak (n = 31) and obstruction (n = 39). ERCP identified the site of the bile leak in 27 of 31 cases (87.1%) and the leak was treated by endoscopic means in 26 of 31 (83.9%). Treatment success differed significantly based on location of the leak (T tube, 95.2% vs. anastomosis, 42.9%; p = 0. 009). ERCP identified the site of obstruction in 37 of 39 cases (94. 9%) and obstruction was relieved by endoscopic means in 25 of 35 cases (71.4%). ERCP was significantly less successful in the treatment of biliary casts (25.0%, p = 0.048). There was no difference in survival or retransplantation between patients who did and did not undergo ERCP.
Conclusion: ERCP should be the primary method for diagnosis and treatment of post-orthotopic liver transplantation biliary complications. Endoscopic therapy is safe and effective for the majority of post-orthotopic liver transplantation complications and temporizes management for those complications that may require surgery.