Background: Hemodynamic monitoring using transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) in patients with signs of portal hypertension undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) carries potential risk of esophageal and gastric variceal hemorrhage. The aim of our retrospective analysis was to evaluate the safety of intraoperative TEE monitoring during OLT in patients with esophagogastric varices.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of 396 liver transplant recipients was performed at the Medical University of Vienna monitored by TEE during OLT between 2003 and 2010.
Results: Varices were documented by esophagogastroduodenoscopy in 287 (72.5%) of 396 analyzed patients: 130 (32.8%) varices grade I (<5 mm under insufflation) and 157 (39.6%) varices grade II (>5 mm under insufflation). Red spot signs were identified in 40 patients (10.1%). Most varices (82.2%) were documented in the esophagus, 4.2% in the stomach, and 13.6% in both (esophagus and stomach). Only one major bleeding occurred, and it was only in a case of one patient with an esophageal varix, which was treated with a balloon tamponade during OLT. Although patients with varices demonstrated a significantly longer prothrombin time and lower platelet count, there was no significant difference in the requirement for blood products among patients with and without varices.
Conclusions: TEE is a relatively safe method for monitoring cardiac performance with a low incidence of major hemorrhagic complications in patients with documented esophagogastric varices undergoing OLT.