Background: Biliary complications are a major drawback of liver transplantation.
Aim: To analyse, in a single centre, experience in endoscopic diagnosis and management of biliary complications after liver transplantation.
Patients: A total of 147 consecutive liver transplantations performed on 132 patients over a 5-year period.
Methods: Evaluation of the incidence and type of biliary-related complications and analysis of their diagnosis and endoscopic treatment by cholangiopancreatography in terms of success of the endoscopic approach, conversion to surgery and long-term patient and graft survival.
Results: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography was performed on 30 patients (23%). Overall incidence of biliary complications as confirmed by endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography was 17% (25 cases). Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography was negative in 5 cases (16%). Biliary complications were successfully treated by endoscopy in 84% of cases (21 out of 25 patients); 4 cases (16%) required a surgical approach (2 choledochojejunostomy, 2 retransplantation) due to failure to correct the problem endoscopically. Stenoses and biliary sludge associated with retained internal stent were almost always successfully managed by endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, while anastomotic leakage more frequently required a surgical approach.
Conclusions: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is a safe and effective approach for diagnosis and treatment of biliary-related complications after liver transplantation thereby reducing morbidity and mortality related to re-operation which is, however, required in selected cases.