An endoscopic approach to biliary complications following orthotopic liver transplantation

Liver Int. 2003 Jun;23(3):156-62. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0676.2003.00823.x.


Biliary complications following orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) may be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In this report, we reviewed our endoscopic experience of managing post OLT biliary complications in 79 patients over a 12-year period.

Methods: OLT (n = 423) recipients between 10/86 and 12/98 were obtained from the transplant registry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. OLT recipient who underwent at least one endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERC) were identified through a radiology database. Indications, findings and interventions performed were noted for each ERC report. Outpatient and inpatients medical records were reviewed for outcome and complications.

Results: Seventy-nine (79/423, 18.7%) patients had at least one ERC for suspected biliary complication. Sixty-four (15.1%) patients had at least one or more biliary complications. The mean follow-up for patients with abnormal ERC was 33.9 months. Nineteen patients had bile leaks; 10 of these patients had leak at the exit site of the T-tube and five patients had at the anastomosis. Biliary stenting with or without endoscopic sphincterotomy led to resolution of bile leak in 16 patients. Three patients failed endoscopic therapy: one underwent surgery and two had percutaneous drainage. Twenty-five patients presented with biliary strictures. Nineteen strictures were at the anastomotic or just proximal to the anastomosis, one at the hilum (ischemic in nature) and three were at the distal, recipient common bile duct; one had strictures at the anastomosis as well as the distal recipient bile duct and another had diffuse intrahepatic strictures. Seventeen patients in the stricture group improved with endoscopic intervention. One patient was re-transplanted (diffuse intrahepatic strictures), but no patient underwent percutaneous drainage.

Conclusions: ERC is safe and effective in the diagnosis and management of biliary complications following liver transplantation with choledochocholedochal anastomosis and obviates the need for surgical or percutaneous transhepatic approaches in majority of cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bile
  • Bile Duct Diseases / etiology*
  • Bile Duct Diseases / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde / methods*
  • Choledocholithiasis / etiology
  • Choledocholithiasis / therapy
  • Constriction, Pathologic / etiology
  • Constriction, Pathologic / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies