Bowel perforation is a frequent cause of mortality after pediatric orthotopic liver transplantation. The aims of this study were to identify the cause of this phenomenon and to examine current methods of treatment.
This is a retrospective analysis of 246 pediatric patients who underwent orthotopic liver transplantation at a large, urban, tertiary care medical center between 1984 and 1992. We examined the frequency of bowel perforations after transplantation and identified predisposing factors and signs. In this series, bowel perforations occurred in 24 of 246 recipients and were common in those who had previous liver-related surgery (22 patients). Clinical signs included fever (13 patients), leukocytosis (14 patients), and free air on abdominal roentgenograms (11 patients).
Perforation occurred at the Roux-en-Y limb in 15 of 24 recipients as well as in the right transverse colon (five patients), terminal ileum (three patients), and duodenum (one patient). The repair was resection and/or primary closure (18 patients), or diversion (six patients). Recurrent perforations (nine patients) could not be attributed to the method of the repair. Perforation-related sepsis was the primary cause of death in 12 patients (50%) and was more common among patients who developed recurrent perforation (seven [78%] of nine patients).
The occurrence and location of bowel perforation after pediatric orthotopic liver transplantation suggests that the cause is related to bowel injury during difficult hepatectomy. Mortality may be reduced by early second-look operations in high-risk patients.(Arch Surg. 1993;128:994-999)