Background: Biliary tract complications are frequent after orthotopic liver transplantation. Late biliary tract complications occurring after T-tube removal mostly include stones and strictures which may be associated with sepsis and worsening of the liver function. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) has a role in the diagnosis and therapy of these complications. The aim of our study was to report our experience of endoscopic diagnosis and treatment of late biliary tract complications in liver-transplanted patients.
Methods and results: One hundred and thirty-six adult liver-transplanted patients have been followed since 1988. Seventeen patients (12.5%) needed a total of 30 ERCP because of evidence of clinical and/or biochemical cholestasis: eight with biliary stricture; six with biliary stones; one with both stricture and stones; and two with normal ERCP findings. Interventional endoscopic procedures included 14 sphincterotomies, six stone removals, seven biliary balloon dilatations, seven biliary stent placements, 11 biliary stent replacements, seven nasobiliary catheter placements and one mechanical lithotripsy. No complications were seen. In all cases, ERCP was able to identify the location, entity and dimension of the late biliary tract complication, thus allowing a therapeutic strategy to be used. Two patients had medical cholestasis. Forty-seven per cent of patients with late biliary tract complications could definitely be cured by ERCP alone. The ERCP improved the patients' condition to allow subsequent surgery in five patients (33%).
Conclusions: These results confirms that ERCP is a valuable diagnostic tool and should be considered as the first step in the non-surgical management of late biliary tract complications after orthotopic liver transplantation.