Biliary atresia and liver transplantation: results and thoughts for primary liver transplantation in select patients

Riccardo Superina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Biliary atresia (BA) is one of the most common indications for liver transplantation in children. Despite advances in biliary atresia surgical techniques, most children will ultimately require liver transplantation. Possible pre-operative predictors of outcome after the Kasai operation are: 1. Age at operation 2. Presence of the biliary atresia splenic malformation syndrome (BASM) 3. Center specific factors 4. Liver histology and 5. Anatomic pattern of bile ducts found at surgery. Age at surgery is considered a strong predictor of success after portoenterostomy. In a recent study, age of 75 days or more at surgery was associated with less frequent resolution of jaundice and decreased transplant free survival. Similarly, the Ohi type II or III anatomy was associated with a higher risk of transplantation or death than type I. Inflammatory findings on pre-operative biopsy predicted a pooreroutcome after a Kasai procedure than obstructive changes. Nodularity of the liver at surgery as well as ascites was associated with a poorer prognosis. Primary transplantation is rarely done despite excellent outcome. Deaths on the waiting list also have improved with routine use of split and live donor transplantation. The Kasai operation has the highest failure rate in its stated objective than any other operation in pediatric surgery. Failure to achieve any improvement in jaundice occurs in over 30% of all cases, even in the best of hands, and transplantation or listing for transplantation occurs in over half the children with type II and III BA by one year of age in countries where liver transplantation is readily available. There are almost no studies in children with BA that compare the outcome after liver transplantation for BA with or without a prior Kasai procedure. It is postulated that a prospective trial in children predicted to have a poor prognosis after the Kasai procedure based on anatomic pattern, liver histology and presence of BASM, would yield improved care, spare some infants needless surgery, and quite possibly result in diminished morbidity and mortality following liver transplant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1304
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Surgery International
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Biliary atresia
  • Prognosis
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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