Preoperative biliary drainage for distal biliary obstruction and post-operative infectious complications

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Preoperative biliary drainage (PBD) for distal bile duct obstruction may increase post-operative complications. This study examined the effect of PBD on positive bile culture (PBC) rates and complications after biliary bypass or pancreaticoduodenectomy. Bilirubin levels in the non-PBD cohort were also analysed to determine the impact on outcome.


A retrospective case-note analysis from 2005 to the present day was undertaken. Statistical analysis was undertaken using Students's t-test, chi-squared test, receiver operator characteristics, correlation coefficient and relative risk ratios.


A total of 422 patients were identified undergoing pancreaticoduodenectomy or biliary bypass for either benign or malignant distal biliary obstruction. One hundred ninety-six patients had complete data regarding PBD and bile cultures. PBD resulted in a significantly higher relative risk of both infectious complications and positive bile cultures. Overall complication rate was greater in patients undergoing PBD. The major complication rate was equivalent between the two groups. Bilirubin levels in the non-PBD cohort did not correlate or predict length of stay, high-dependency stay, and mortality or complication rate.


There seems to be little value in PBD for patients with distal biliary obstruction other than to defer definitive surgery to a non-emergency setting. For most hepato-pancreato-biliary units, avoidance of PBD will prove logistically difficult.

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