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Transplantation. 1999 May 15;67(9):1214-7.

Analysis of the complications of the piggy-back technique in 1,112 liver transplants.

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  • 1Hospital Universitario Virgen de la Arrixaca (Murcia), Spain.



The "piggy-back" technique has gained acceptance in adult orthotopic liver transplantation during the last few years, especially in European countries. At the moment, however, there is controversy over advantages or specific complications (suprahepatic thrombosis or narrowing, etc.) related to this surgical technique. The aim of this study is to know of the immediate per-and postoperative morbidity and mortality rates in 1112 orthotopic liver transplantations performed with a vena cava preservation technique.


All liver transplant units in Spain were sent a questionnaire on retrohepatic vena cava preservation during orthotopic liver transplantation. The number of orthotopic liver transplantations that had been performed in the seven centers that answered the questionnaire, because the beginning of the program, was 1674, with the vena cava preservation technique used in 1112.


Twenty-eight patients (2.5%) had intraoperative complications related to the vena cava preservation technique, which were treated during the operation. Eleven patients (1%) had early postoperative complications (first week), the most frequent (nine cases) being an acute Budd-Chiari syndrome in the first 48 hr. Three patients developed symptoms of massive ascites between 2 and 3 months (late postoperative complications), with patency of the retrohepatic cava verified by cavography. A hemodynamic study revealed a hyperpressure at the suprahepatic veins. This chronic Budd-Chiari syndrome was controlled in all patients with diuretics. Only six patients (0.5%) died as a result of complications related to the "piggy-back" technique. These complications were more frequent when venous reconstruction was done using two suprahepatic veins than when the three veins were used (P<0.001).


The vena cava preservation technique can be used routinely in orthotopic liver transplantation because it is safe and efficient and involves few surgical complications especially if for venous reconstruction we use the patch obtained by joining the three suprahepatic veins.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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