Postoperative biliary complications in living donor liver transplantation are often difficult to treat, and if treatment is not successful, the patient’s QOL is significantly reduced, with some cases resulting in cholestatic cirrhosis, which is referred to as the “Achilles’ heel of living donor liver transplantation” . In actual clinical practice, while a surgical loupe (enlargement ratio: 2.5x–4.5x) is used to perform bile duct to bile duct anastomosis, in the case of liver transplantation using a whole liver graft such as brain-dead donor liver transplantation, the diameter of the reconstructed biliary duct may have wider orifice, with the frequency of biliary complications reported to be approximately 10–15% [2, 3, 4]. On the other hand, in liver transplantation using a partial liver graft such as living donor liver transplantation, the frequency of postoperative biliary complications is reported to be higher than that of deceased donor transplantation approximately at 15–30% because the diameter of the reconstructed biliary duct is small, short and sometimes multiple lumens [5, 6, 7].
A surgical microscope (5x–15x) is used for hepatic artery anastomosis with a diameter of 2 to 3 mm in living donor liver transplantation; however, not many facilities use them for biliary reconstruction. In 2013, Lin et al. reported a retrospective examination at a single facility that while biliary reconstruction has traditionally used a surgical loupe (2.5x–4.5x), biliary reconstruction using a surgical microscope (5x–15x) can reduce the incidence of complications to the 6% range .
The objective of this study is to clarify the efficacy of biliary reconstruction using surgical microscopes in living donor liver transplantation, in which good treatment results have been reported, by conducting a multi-facility, randomized comparative study.
If this study proves the usefulness of biliary reconstruction using a microscope, the technique will become one standard technique, with expectations of low incidence of biliary complications following liver transplantation as well as improved patient QOL by performing this technique.
It is an open-label randomized controlled study in which target patients who meet the registration requirements are randomly allocated to a surgical loupe group and a microscopy group after obtaining their consent (Ratio 1:1).
The procedures used in this study are as follows: A graft from a living donor is transplanted once the liver of the recipient is completely removed. Revascularization is performed followed by biliary reconstruction. The presence of biliary complications is morphologically evaluated by cholangiography under fluoroscopy or magnetic resonance cholangio-pancreatography (MRCP). In addition, computed tomography and postoperative blood tests (increase in liver enzymes and biliary enzymes) are used for evaluation.
The primary endpoint is an incidence of biliary complications (bile leakage and anastomotic biliary stricture) with Clavien-Dindo class III or higher within 52 weeks following surgery.
Bile leakage was defined as the presence of bile material in a closed suction drain that persisted more than 7 days after transplantation or as the presence of a biloma around the area of the anastomosis. Anastomotic biliary stricture was defined as an intrahepatic biliary dilatation > 3 mm in the presence of a notable anastomotic narrowing, on the basis of symptoms, or on the basis of abnormal liver function tests. Jaundice, fever, or abdominal pain could be present with a bile leak or stricture. The secondary endpoint is length of time required for biliary reconstruction using a surgical microscope.
Patients scheduled to undergo a living donor liver transplantation at Nagasaki University Hospital, Kyusyu University Hospital and University of the Ryukyus Hospital are targeted.
Patients meeting all of the following criteria are targeted:
The members and principal investigator of each facility shall receive the consent of the subject patient and contact the Department of Surgery, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences by fax or e-mail. The Department of Surgery, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences will input UMIN INDICE and allocate it. The allocation results (microscopy group or surgical loupe group) will be provided to the participating facility by fax or e-mail so that each site can perform surgery accordingly.
1. Microscopy group
A surgical microscope (5x–15x) is set in the surgical field in order to perform the following procedures: With the diameter of the donor’s bile duct as well as alignment in mind, either the recipient’s left and right bile ducts or common bile ducts are selected as anastomosis points. Interrupted suture with an absorbent suture is performed to suture the back and front of the bile duct walls (size 6–0). All ligations shall be tied outside. A tube is placed in the anastomosis site.
2. Surgical loupe group
Wear a surgical loupe (2.5x–4.5x), which is also used in normal surgery, and perform the following procedures: Set it in the surgical field. With the diameter of the donor’s bile duct as well as alignment in mind, either the recipient’s left and right bile ducts or common bile ducts are selected as anastomosis points. Interrupted suture with an absorbent suture is performed to suture the back and front of the bile duct walls (size 6–0). All ligations shall be tied outside. A tube is placed in the anastomosis part.
This study examines and collects information in accordance with the following schedule. The blood test and abdominal contrast-enhanced CT do not include anything special and is conducted to collect information as in regular medical care.
|ITEM||PRIOR TO SURGERY||FOLLOWING SURGERY||OBSERVATION PERIOD FOLLOWING SURGERY||UPON DISCONTINUATION|
|0 weeks||12 weeks following surgery||24 weeks following surgery||52 weeks following surgery||Upon discontinuation|
|Obtainment of consent||○||—||—||—||—||—|
|Factors of surgery (total duration of surgery, length of time required for biliary reconstruction)||—||○||—||—||—||—|
|Blood test (hepatic biliary enzymes, bilirubin)||○||—||○||○||○||○|
|Biliary form evaluation (direct imaging or MRCP)||—||—||○|
|Abdominal contrast-enhanced CT||○||—||○||○||○||○|
Regarding the postoperative observation period, each evaluation date shall be within the acceptable range of ± 28 days.
The estimated sample size is 158 (79 in each group). As a difference to be detected, the incidence of biliary complications by the conventional method was set to 25%, while the incidence by microscope was set to 10% (the effective rate was calculated as 75% and 90%). The number of cases required was calculated by setting the α error on one side as 5% and the detecting power as 80%. Regarding the biliary reconstruction under a microscope, we will use the Chi-square test to examine whether or not there is a statistically significant difference between the microscopy and the surgical loupe group. The significance level is set to be 5%. When a statistically significant difference is observed between the two, we will determine that biliary reconstructions under a microscope is effective. Exploratory analysis will be conducted for the secondary outcomes.
Biliary complication is more frequent in living donor liver transplantation than deceased donor liver transplantation [5, 6, 7]. Biliary complication is associated with outcomes of liver transplantation in terms of graft function and quality of life. For anastomotic stricture, an endoscopic approach and percutaneous transhepatic cholangiodrainage (PTCD) are required after surgery, and hepaticojejunostomy may be performed in some cases . Endoscopic management of biliary stricture is technically more challenging in LDLT than in DDLT, because of the complexity of the biliary anastomosis including multiple anastomosis, tortuous and angulated biliary anatomy. Even after the successful endoscopic approach, multiple stent exchange to prevent stent occlusion is needed. In also patients with PTCD, multiple exchange of drainage tube is usually needed. Since quality of life is often disturbed in patients with biliary stricture despite the development of postoperative intervention, prevention of biliary complication is highly important.
For preventing biliary complications, various ideas have been implemented from a surgical point of view. For example, the ischemia to the bile duct stumps, the number and size of bile ducts has been reported as causes of biliary complication. The efficacy of minimal hilar dissection to preserve maximal vascular integrity of the bile duct in recipient surgery . With respect to the number of bile ducts in the graft, we have been performing intraoperative cholangiography with radiopaque filament encircling bile duct to detect the appropriate cut point .
As one of the important innovations, biliary reconstruction with a microsurgical technique . This approach has the technical advantage of enhanced visualization of the operative field including biliary reconstruction for conspicuously small bile duct . The technique is considered effective to prevent physical trauma to the bile duct epithelium and conduct more precise placement of stitches during the biliary anastomosis.
According to the report about results of routine microsurgical biliary reconstruction by Lin et al., the incidence of biliary complication significantly decreased compared to the previous reports. In other reports, Yan et al. concluded that microsurgical technique and fixed operator could decrease the biliary complications of LDLT . Favorable outcomes of microsurgical biliary reconstruction have been reported based on single-center experiences.
In the current multi-facility randomized trial, we made a protocol to clarify its efficacy as well as its versatility. To evaluate the responsibility of surgical microscope on postoperative biliary complication, we set type of graft, primary disease of the recipient, facility as allocation factors in this randomized study. All facilities participating in this study have sufficient experiences of living donor liver surgery and microsurgery.
If this study reveals the efficacy and versatility of biliary tract reconstruction with a microscope, it will be one of the options for improving outcomes of biliary reconstruction in living-donor liver transplantation.
This study protocol was approved by the institutional review board of Nagasaki University Hospital (No. 20122102-2). The study is registered in UMIN-CTR as UMIN000042011. Written informed consent will be obtained from all participants. The results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and will be presented at medical meetings.
The consent form will be provided to the editors of this journal on request.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
AS, SE, YT, MT and TH developed the study concept and all authors further developed the study protocol. AS is the first author and wrote the initial draft of the manuscript under the supervision of SE. All other coauthors were involved in the revisions and refining of the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript for submission.
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