Variability of diagnostic approach, surgical technique, and medical management for children with biliary atresia in Canada - Is it time for standardization?

J Pediatr Surg. 2017 May;52(5):802-806. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2017.01.041. Epub 2017 Jan 30.


Background: The Canadian 4-year native liver survival rate for biliary atresia (BA) after Kasai Portoenterostomy (KP) is 39%. The Canadian Biliary Atresia Registry (CBAR) was used to examine variability of surgical and medical management of BA.

Methods: Gastroenterologists and surgeons in all 14 Canadian pediatric tertiary centers were invited to complete an online survey of their BA management practices.

Results: Of gastroenterologists, diagnostic procedures included liver biopsy (92%), HIDA scan (58%), and percutaneous cholangiogram (46%). Surgeons reported Roux-en-Y lengths of 20-50cm with 78% avoiding diathermy at the portal plate; 16% performed laparoscopic exploration, but none laparoscopic KP. Postoperative corticosteroids and antibiotics were used by 24% and 85% of gastroenterologists, respectively, with similar rates for surgeons. At discharge, gastroenterologists prescribed oral antibiotics (80%), and ursodeoxycholic acid (95%), while surgeons reported lower rates (62% and 55%). Considerable variation existed in follow-up monitoring. No center had a standard protocol for evaluating suspected cholangitis. There was a lack of consensus for defining failed KP and referral criteria for transplant evaluation.

Conclusion: In Canada, treatment of BA is not centralized, and there is variability in diagnostic approaches and management. Collaboration through CBAR will allow for implementation and evaluation of standardized surgical and medical management with a goal to improve outcomes.

Level of evidence: Survey study. Level IV evidence.

Keywords: Biliary atresia; Kasai portoenterostomy; Outcomes research; Registry; Variability.

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare / methods
  • Aftercare / statistics & numerical data
  • Biliary Atresia* / diagnosis
  • Biliary Atresia* / surgery
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholangiography / statistics & numerical data
  • Combined Modality Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Laparoscopy / statistics & numerical data
  • Liver Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Portoenterostomy, Hepatic / methods
  • Portoenterostomy, Hepatic / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome