Biliary stones and sludge in liver transplant patients: a 13-year experience

Radiology. 1996 Jan;198(1):243-7. doi: 10.1148/radiology.198.1.8539387.


Purpose: To determine the prevalence, radiologic features, and clinical significance of bile duct filling defects (BDFDs) in liver transplant recipients studied with cholangiography.

Materials and methods: During 13 years, 4,100 cholangiograms were obtained in 1,650 patients. All studies showing BDFD suggestive of stones, sludge, cast, or necrotic debris were retrospectively evaluated.

Results: The prevalence of BDFD was 5.7% (n = 94). On the basis of cholangiographic appearance, BDFDs were categorized as sludge or cast in 53 grafts (56%), stones in 32 (34%), and necrotic debris in nine (10%). Forty-three patients (46%) underwent surgical biliary reconstruction, while 14 (15%) underwent interventional radiologic treatments. Twenty-four of 32 stones (75%) were treated with surgical reconstruction, compared with 31% (19 of 62 grafts) of other BDFDs (P < .0001). Necrotic debris and sludge were associated with hepatic artery occlusion in seven of nine (78%) and 16 of 53 (30%) grafts, respectively.

Conclusion: Stones and sludge are relatively infrequent after liver transplantation but are associated with high morbidity. Surgical or interventional radiologic treatments are usually performed. Bile duct stones are usually treated with surgical biliary reconstruction. While debris and bile duct necrosis are due to ischemia from hepatic artery occlusion, sludge may also have an ischemic pathogenesis in some cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bile Duct Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Bile Duct Diseases / etiology
  • Bile*
  • Cholangiography
  • Cholelithiasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cholelithiasis / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies