Background: The presence of communicating veins between adjacent hepatic veins may allow parenchyma-sparing hepatectomy. Taking advantage of improvements in ultrasound technology, such as e-flow modality, a study of the presence of communicating veins was conducted in patients with hepatic tumours at the caval confluence. Methods: Consecutive patients undergoing surgery between October 2007 and December 2009 for hepatic tumours in contact with or invading a hepatic vein at its caval confluence were included. Communicating vein mapping by means of e-flow intraoperative ultrasonography (EF-IOUS) was carried out. Results: A total of 20 patients were enrolled. Communicating veins between adjacent hepatic veins or with the inferior vena cava were detected in 16 patients. The median number of communicating veins was 1 (range 0-5). The total number of lesions removed was 126 (range 1-46). In 11 of 12 patients requiring resection of a hepatic vein, communicating veins enabled a parenchyma-sparing procedure to be performed. No patient had a formal major hepatectomy. There was no postoperative mortality or major morbidity. Conclusion: EF-IOUS estimation of the frequency of communicating veins between adjacent hepatic veins suggests that such veins are common. This may facilitate parenchyma-sparing procedures in patients with hepatic tumours encroaching on major hepatic veins.
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