Probability, management, and long-term outcomes of biliary complications after hepatic artery thrombosis in liver transplant recipients

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Hepatic artery thrombosis after liver transplantation is a devastating complication associated with ischemic cholangiopathy that can occur even after successful revascularization. This study explores long-term outcomes after hepatic artery thrombosis in adult liver transplantation recipients, focusing on the probability, risk factors, and resolution of ischemic cholangiopathy.


A retrospective chart review of 1,783 consecutive adult liver transplantations performed between 1995 and 2014 identified 44 cases of hepatic artery thrombosis (2.6%); 10 patients underwent immediate retransplantation, and 34 patients received nontransplant treatments, involving revascularization (n = 19) or expectant nonrevascularization management (n = 15).


The 1-year graft survival after nontransplant treatment was favorable (82%); however, 16 of the 34 patients who received a nontransplant treatment developed ischemic cholangiopathy and required long-term biliary intervention. A Cox regression model showed that increased serum transaminase and bilirubin levels at the time of hepatic artery thrombosis diagnosis, but not nonrevascularization treatment versus revascularization, were risk factors for the development of ischemic cholangiopathy. Ischemic cholangiopathy in revascularized grafts was less extensive with a greater likelihood of resolution within 5-years than that in nonrevascularized grafts (100% vs 17%). Most liver abscesses without signs of liver failure also were reversible. Salvage retransplantation after a nontransplant treatment was performed in 8 patients with a 1-year survival rate equivalent to immediate retransplantation (88% vs 80%).


Selective nontransplant treatments for hepatic artery thrombosis resulted in favorable graft survival. Biliary intervention can resolve liver abscess and ischemic cholangiopathy that developed in revascularized grafts in the long-term; salvage retransplantation should be considered for ischemic cholangiopathy in nonrevascularized grafts because of a poor chance of resolution.

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