Role of magnetic resonance cholangiography in biliary complications of orthotopic liver transplantation

Radiol Med. 2010 Oct;115(7):1065-79. doi: 10.1007/s11547-010-0563-7. Epub 2010 Jul 31.
[Article in English, Italian]


Purpose: The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of magnetic resonance cholangiography (MRC) in the detection of biliary complications following orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT).

Materials and methods: Seventy-eight transplant patients with clinically suspected biliary complications were evaluated with 1.5-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using a surface coil. All patients were imaged with the following sequences: axial T1-weighted and axial and coronal T2-weighted, 2D spin echo (SE) breath-hold radial cholangiography, and coronal 3D single-shot turbo spin echo (SS-TSE) with respiratory triggering. Patients with negative MRI underwent clinical and sonographic followup. When biliary complications were present, diagnostic confirmation was obtained by endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) (n=13), percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) (n=20), ultrasonography (n=10) or computed tomography (CT) (n=2). In 11 cases, surgical confirmation was also obtained.

Results: MRC detected biliary complications in 44/78 patients, in particular, 42 biliary strictures (37 anastomotic and five intrahepatic), 40 of which were confirmed by other imaging modalities. In 25/37 cases of anastomotic stricture, preanastomotic dilatation of the biliary tract was also demonstrated. Other MRC-detected biliary complications were biliary sludge (n=4), biloma (n=5), and biliary stones (n=3). In four cases, PTC revealed biliary complications that had not been detected with MRC (false negative results). In two cases, MRC showed unconfirmed strictures of the intrahepatic ducts and biliodigestive anastomosis (false positive results). The sensitivity, specificity, positive (PPV) and negative (NPV) predictive values and diagnostic accuracy of MRC were 93.5%, 94.4%, 96.7%, 89.5% and 93.9%, respectively.

Conclusions: Our results confirm that MRC is a reliable technique for depicting biliary anastomoses and detecting biliary complications after OLT. The high diagnostic accuracy of MRC indicates that this examination should be routinely employed in all OLT patients with clinically suspected biliary complications.

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Bile
  • Bile Ducts / pathology*
  • Bile Ducts / surgery
  • Cholestasis / diagnosis*
  • Cholestasis / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis