Gastrointestinal perforation after pediatric orthotopic liver transplantation

Academic Article


  • Purpose: The aim of this review was to determine the incidence of gastrointestinal perforation after pediatric liver transplantation and to identify risk factors and clinical indicators that may lead to an earlier diagnosis. Methods: A retrospective chart review of all children who presented with gastrointestinal perforation after liver transplantation at our institution between January 1, 1987 and August 1, 1996 was performed. Results: One hundred fifty-seven orthotopic liver transplants were performed in 128 children. Fifty-eight reexplorations, excluding those for retransplantation, were performed in 38 children. Ten perforations occurred in six children (incidence, 6.4%). Two children required multiple reexplorations because of several episodes of perforation. The sites of perforation were duodenum (n = 1), jejunum (n = 8), and ileum (n = 1). A single-layer closure was used to repair five perforations, two-layer closures in four, and resection with primary anastomosis in another. The type of repair did not affect the occurrence of subsequent perforations. All the children were less than 18 months old. Four children had undergone prior laparotomy. All children had choledochoenteric anastomoses, but only one had a perforation associated with it. One child sustained bowel injury during the dissection for the liver transplant, but none of the perforations occurred at this site. Bowel function had returned before perforation in five children. Five children were receiving systemic antibiotics at the time of their perforation, and none had been dosed with pulse steroids for rejection. All of the children had significant changes in their temperature. Acute leukopenia developed in one child. A leukocytosis developed in the rest of the children. Abdominal radiographs demonstrated pneumoperitoneum in only one child. All children had positive culture findings from their abdominal drains. Cytomegalovirus developed in one child. Although the diagnosis of gastrointestinal perforation after pediatric liver transplant remains difficult, positive drain culture findings and significant alterations in temperature and leukocyte counts suggest its presence. Pneumoperitoneum is rarely present. Conclusion: A high index of suspicion and timely laparotomy, especially in children less than 2 years of age, may be the only way to rapidly diagnose and treat this potentially devastating complication of liver transplant.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Beierle EA; Nicolette LA; Billmire DF; Vinocur CD; Weintraub WH; Dunn SP
  • Start Page

  • 240
  • End Page

  • 242
  • Volume

  • 33
  • Issue

  • 2