Despite recent advances in perioperative support care, surgery for obstructive jaundice is still associated with significant morbidity and mortality. For this reason, preoperative percutaneous transhepatic drainage (PTD) has been recommended for these patients. This method of management, however, has only been supported by retrospective and nonrandomized studies. Therefore, a prospective, randomized study was performed to determine the effect of preoperative PTD on operative mortality, morbidity, hospital stay, and hospital cost. Thirty-day mortality was 8.1% among 37 patients undergoing preoperative PTD, compared to 5.3% for 38 patients who went to surgery without preoperative drainage. Overall morbidity was also slightly, but not significantly, higher in patients who underwent preoperative PTD (57% versus 53%). However, total hospital stay was significantly longer (p < 0.005) in the PTD group (31.4 days versus 23.1 days). The cost of this excess hospitalization and the PTD procedure at our university medical center was over $8000 per patient. The authors conclude that preoperative PTD does not reduce operative risk but does increase hospital cost and, therefore, should not be performed routinely.
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