Endoscopic management of biliary complications after liver transplantation: An evidence-based review

World J Gastrointest Endosc. 2015 Jun 10;7(6):606-16. doi: 10.4253/wjge.v7.i6.606.


Biliary tract diseases are the most common complications following liver transplantation (LT) and usually include biliary leaks, strictures, and stone disease. Compared to deceased donor liver transplantation in adults, living donor liver transplantation is plagued by a higher rate of biliary complications. These may be promoted by multiple risk factors related to recipient, graft, operative factors and post-operative course. Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography is the first-choice examination when a biliary complication is suspected following LT, in order to diagnose and to plan the optimal therapy; its limitations include a low sensitivity for the detection of biliary sludge. For treating anastomotic strictures, balloon dilatation complemented with the temporary placement of multiple simultaneous plastic stents has become the standard of care and results in stricture resolution with no relapse in > 90% of cases. Temporary placement of fully covered self-expanding metal stents (FCSEMSs) has not been demonstrated to be superior (except in a pilot randomized controlled trial that used a special design of FCSEMSs), mostly because of the high migration rate of current FCSEMSs models. The endoscopic approach of non-anastomotic strictures is technically more difficult than that of anastomotic strictures due to the intrahepatic and/or hilar location of strictures, and the results are less satisfactory. For treating biliary leaks, biliary sphincterotomy and transpapillary stenting is the standard approach and results in leak resolution in more than 85% of patients. Deep enteroscopy is a rapidly evolving technique that has allowed successful treatment of patients who were not previously amenable to endoscopic therapy. As a result, the percutaneous and surgical approaches are currently required in a minority of patients.

Keywords: Bile leakage; Biliary stricture; Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography; Fully-covered self-expandable metal stents; Liver transplantation; Plastic stents.

Publication types

  • Review