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Ann Surg. 1996 Jun;223(6):747-53; discussion 753-6.

Management of biliary tract stones in heart transplant patients.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



The authors report their experience with biliary tract stones in adult and pediatric heart transplant patients, and review the current literature relative to this problem.


Prior studies in adults have noted that heart transplant patients frequently have cholelithiasis, but offer no consensus about treatment strategy. Few studies exist for pediatric heart transplant patients. A higher rate of hemolysis and cyclosporine-induced changes in bile metabolism may contribute to lithogenesis in this population.


A chart review was conducted for 211 patients who had heart transplants between January 1988 and September 1994 to determine prevalence of biliary tract stones, management strategies used, and outcome.


Of 175 long-term heart transplant survivors, 52 (29.7%) had stones detected: 32.8% of adults (47/143) and 15.6% of children (5/32). The majority of patients (31) were diagnosed 4 months (mean) after transplantation; cholelithiasis developed in 10 of these patients (32%) within 11 months (median) after a negative ultrasound. Symptoms developed in 45% of patients. All patients underwent either elective (36) or urgent (6) cholecystectomy via an open (32) or laparoscopic (10) approach, or endoscopy for common bile duct stones (2). There were no deaths or complications during a follow-up period of up to 7 years.


Heart transplant patients have a high prevalence of symptomatic biliary tract stone disease. They can be treated safely via an open or laparoscopic approach after transplantation. The authors recommend routine gallbladder ultrasound screening and elective cholecystectomy in the post-transplant period if stones are detected.

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