After liver transplantation, the most common biliary complication is the anastomotic stricture, which is followed by biliary leakage. Studies have focused on the endoscopic treatment of biliary complications in transplanted patients with duct-to-duct reconstruction, showing a success rate of 70% to 80% after orthotopic liver transplantation and of 60% after living-related liver transplantation. Once the endoscopic approach fails, surgical treatment with a Roux-en-Y choledochojejunostomy is the sole alternative treatment. The aim of this prospective observational study was to analyze the efficacy and safety of fully covered self-expandable metallic stents for the treatment of posttransplant biliary stenosis and leaks in patients in whom conventional endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) failed. From January 2008 to January 2009, 16 patients met the criteria of endoscopic treatment failure, and instead of surgery, a fully covered stent was placed. All patients had at least 6 months of follow-up (mean follow-up of 10 months). After removal, 14 patients showed immediate resolution of both the biliary stenosis and leak. After a mean of 10 months of follow-up, only 1 patient showed biliary stenosis recurrence. No major complications occurred in any of the patients, except for stent migration in 6 patients, although these presented with no clinical consequences. In conclusion, in patients not responding to standard endoscopic treatment, the placement of fully covered metal stents is a valid alternative to surgery. A cost analysis should be performed in order to evaluate whether to treat transplanted patients suffering from biliary complications with covered self-expandable metallic stent placement as first-line therapy.
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