Biliary Complications After Liver Transplantation

Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2002 Apr;5(2):101-112. doi: 10.1007/s11938-002-0057-3.


The incidence of biliary complications after liver transplant is estimated to be 8% to 20%. Post-liver transplant biliary complications may lead to acute and chronic liver injury. The early recognition and prompt treatment of such complications improves the long-term survival of the patient and graft. An understanding of the type of biliary reconstruction, the rationale for creating a particular anastomosis, and the technical difficulties in reconstructing the biliary tract are important in assessing and managing complications after liver transplant. Because the clinical presentation of these patients may be subtle, the physician must be aggressive and thoughtful in ordering and interpreting the diagnostic tests. Important points to remember are 1) that noninvasive examinations may fail to detect small obstructions or leaks, 2) a liver biopsy often is performed prior to cholangiography to exclude rejection and ischemia, and 3) the liver biopsy can miss an extrahepatic obstruction by misinterpreting portal inflammation as rejection. Biliary leaks and strictures are the most common biliary complications following liver transplant. Less common complications include ampullary dysfunction and stone/sludge formation. The effective management of biliary complications following a liver transplant depends on understanding the natural history, the prognosis, and the available therapeutic options for each type of complication.