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Hepatic artery thrombosis is a continuing source of morbidity and mortality following orthotopic liver transplantation. The cornerstone of therapy has been urgent retransplantation that is limited by organ availability. For this reason we developed a policy of urgent revascularization for allograft rescue.

Hepatic artery thrombosis developed following 15 transplants of which 11 underwent urgent rearterialization. The diagnosis was made a mean of 4.8 days (range 1–10) following transplantation. Duplex ultrasonography was diagnostic in all patients and confirmed by angiography in 4 (36%). Three patients with hepatic artery thrombosis were identified following screening ultrasonography and were clinically unsuspected. Upon reexploration, a specific technical reason for hepatic artery was found in 4 patients (36%). Twelve arterial revascularization procedures were performed in 11 patients including: thrombectomy alone (n = 4); revision of anastomosis with thrombectomy (n = 5); and thrombectomy with placement of vascular conduit (n = 3). Following revascularization, 8 patients maintained hepatic artery patency. Three patients eventually required retransplantation secondary to biliary sepsis. Biliary tract complications developed in 6 patients, at a mean of 23 days following revascularization and included: breakdown of the biliary anastomosis (n = 4); stricture (n = 1); and sludge formation (n = 1). The overall graft and patient survival are 74% and 82% respectively, with a mean follow-up of 6.8 months.

Hepatic allograft rescue with the use of urgent revascularization following hepatic artery thrombosis appears to be an effective means of either avoiding retransplantation or providing a bridge until a suitable donor becomes available.

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