Advances in endoscopic management of biliary tract complications after liver transplantation

Mustafa A. Arain, Rajeev Attam, Martin L. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Biliary tract complications after liver transplantation (LT) most commonly include biliary leaks, strictures, and stone disease. Living donor recipients and donation after cardiac death recipients are at an increased risk of developing biliary complications. Biliary leaks usually occur early after transplantation, whereas strictures and stone disease occur later. The diagnosis of biliary complications relies on a combination of clinical presentation, laboratory abnormalities, and imaging modalities. Biliary leaks are usually diagnosed on the basis of bilious output from a surgical drain, fluid collections on imaging, or a cholescintigraphy scan demonstrating a leak. Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is noninvasive, does not require the administration of an intravenous contrast agent, and provides detailed imaging of the entire biliary system both above and below the anastomosis. The latter not only helps in the diagnosis of biliary strictures and stones before patients undergo invasive procedures such as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) but also allows treating physicians to plan the optimal treatment approach. MRCP has, therefore, replaced invasive therapeutic modalities such as ERCP as the modality of choice for the diagnosis of biliary strictures and stones. There have been significant advances in endoscopic accessories, including biliary catheters, wires, and stents, as well as endoscopic technologies such as overtube-assisted endoscopy over the last decade. These developments have resulted in almost all patients, including those with difficult strictures or altered surgical anatomies (eg, Roux-en-Y hepaticojejunostomy), being treated via an endoscopic approach with percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography, which is more invasive and associated with significant morbidity, with surgery being reserved for a small minority of patients. Advances in the diagnosis and endoscopic management of patients with biliary complications after LT are discussed in this review. © 2013 AASLD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-498
Number of pages17
JournalLiver Transplantation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


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