Reconstructive surgery for ischemic-type lesions at the bile duct bifurcation after liver transplantation.


OBJECTIVE: To assess the feasibility, morbidity, mortality, and clinical success rate of surgical reconstruction of the biliary system in patients with ischemic-type biliary lesions in their liver graft. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: After liver transplantation, strictures in the biliary tree with secondary sludge formation can occur in the absence of vascular problems. Jaundice, pruritus, and recurrent cholangitis are predominant clinical features leading to considerable morbidity. Interventional measures are the first-line treatment but are frequently only of transient success. Retransplantation is usually considered when interventional treatment is not effective. METHODS: Surgical exploration and reconstruction was performed in 17 patients with ischemic-type biliary strictures at a median of 2 years after liver transplantation. Findings during surgery, surgical strategies, and postsurgical courses are described. Clinical symptoms and biochemical parameters of cholestasis and liver function were analyzed in the postsurgical course. RESULTS: During surgery, all 17 patients were found to have strictures or sclerotic changes involving the hepatic bifurcation and extrahepatic bile duct. Sludge or stones were present in nine patients. In 14 patients with viable bile ducts proximal to the bifurcation, surgical reconstruction was performed by resection of the bifurcation and hepaticojejunostomy. In three patients with more extensive biliary destruction, portoenterostomy with or without peripheral hepatojejunostomy was performed. The prevalence rate of biliary infection at surgery was 93%; the predominant organisms were Candida and enterococci. The perioperative mortality rate was 0%. Clinical symptoms and biochemical parameters became normal or were considerably improved in 14 of 16 patients (88%). CONCLUSIONS: The hepatic bifurcation seems to be a predominant site for ischemic-type biliary changes after liver transplantation. Surgical treatment by resection of the bifurcation and reconstruction by high hepaticojejunostomy is a safe and highly effective approach leading to cure or persistent major improvement in most patients.

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