This study was undertaken to further define the role of endoscopic methods in the evaluation and treatment of biliary tract complications after liver transplantation and to determine the efficacy and safety of this approach. Fifty liver transplant patients were referred for endoscopic evaluation of a suspected biliary tract complication. Two patient groups were identified based on the indication for the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): Group 1 was suspected of having biliary fistula and group 2 was suspected of having bile duct obstruction. Group 1 consisted of 35 patients who developed bile peritonitis after inadvertent migration of the T-tube or intentional T-tube removal. Group 2 consisted of 15 patients who developed cholestatic hepatic chemistries in the absence of allograft rejection on liver biopsy. ERCP identified a biliary fistula at the T-tube insertion site into the bile duct in 32 (91%) group 1 patients. Twenty-six of 26 treated with a nasobiliary tube had fistula closure at a mean 5.2 days. Five of 6 treated with a stent, with or without sphincterotomy, had no leak at the time of stent removal (mean, 45 days). ERCP identified a cause for the cholestatic hepatic chemistries in 11 (73.5%) group 2 patients, including bile duct stones (n=4), anastomotic (n=3) or intrahepatic (n=2) strictures, bile duct necrosis (n=l), and hemobilia (n=l). Five of the 5 patients undergoing endoscopic therapy were treated successfully. The endoscopic complication rate was 4% and the 30-day mortality rate was 2%. During a mean follow-up of 15 months, 94% of the patients who were treated successfully had no recurrent biliary tract disease. The results of this study suggest that ERCP is an effective modality in the evaluation of patients with suspected biliary tract complications after liver transplantation. In selected patients, endoscopic therapy obviates the need for additional surgical or percutaneous intervention.
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