Thirty-one patients with sclerosing cholangitis underwent reconstruction of their hepatic duct bifurcation and long-term stenting between 1980 and 1987. Indications for surgery were persistent jaundice in 29 and recurrent cholangitis in two. The mean serum bilirubin level before surgery was 10.4 mg/dl. Liver biopsy revealed that 26 patients had varying degrees of hepatic fibrosis, and five patients had progressed to secondary biliary cirrhosis. In 29 patients the major obstructive duct disease was at or near the hepatic duct bifurcation, and in two patients it was in the distal common duct. The operative procedure consisted of: (1) excision of the hepatic duct bifurcation and extrahepatic biliary tree, (2) dilatation of the intrahepatic ducts, (3) insertion of Silastic transhepatic biliary stents, and (4) bilateral hepaticojejunostomies. Two of the five patients (40%) with cirrhosis died after surgery. In contrast, only one of 26 patients (3.9%) with hepatic fibrosis died after operation. The 1-, 3-, and 5-year actuarial survival rates for patients with cirrhosis were 20%, 20%, and 20%, respectively. The only long-term survivor underwent a liver transplant. The 1-, 3-, and 5-year actuarial survival rates for patients with hepatic fibrosis were 92%, 87%, and 71%, respectively. In addition, the mean serum bilirubin levels of patients with hepatic fibrosis at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years were 3.4 mg/dl, 2.9 mg/dl, 4.0 mg/dl, 5.4 mg/dl, and 4.3 mg/dl, respectively. Two of the long-term survivors subsequently underwent a liver transplant. Patients with sclerosing cholangitis, persistent jaundice, and biliary cirrhosis should be referred for consideration of liver transplantation. However, in the absence of biliary cirrhosis, if the major obstructive disease is at the hepatic duct bifurcation, primary biliary reconstruction and long-term stenting should be considered.
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