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Pediatr Surg Int. 2001 Jul;17(5-6):390-5.

Bacterial cholangitis in patients with biliary atresia: impact on short-term outcome.

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Department of Pediatrics, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Republic of China.


Bacterial cholangitis (BC) is a common complication in patients with biliary atresia (BA) and is characterized by fever, acholic stools and positive blood cultures. The diagnosis is often empirical because the yield of blood cultures is low. It is difficult to differentiate BC from other febrile episodes. In order to characterize the clinical and laboratory features of BC in patients with BA, identify risk factors, and correlate cholangitis with outcome, 37 patients with BA from 1993 to 1998 who underwent a Kasai operation in our hospital were studied. The follow-up period ranged from 6 to 59 months. A total of 107 febrile episodes were documented in these patients. The diagnostic criteria for cholangitis were fever, increased jaundice, or acholic stools. The clinical features, laboratory data, results of bacterial cultures, and outcomes were analyzed retrospectively. A total of 107 febrile episodes, including 78 bouts of cholangitis and 29 non-cholangitis infections, were found in 34 patients. Patients with BC had higher postoperative bilirubin levels (P = 0.02) and less frequent use of prophylactic antibiotics (P = 0.05) than those with non-cholangitis infections. Abnormal white blood cell counts (> 12,000 or <4,000 mm3) tended to be present in patients with BC (P = 0.08). There were no statistical differences in the risk factors and laboratory data between culture-positive (n = 16) and -negative (n = 62) cholangitis cases. The occurrence of cholangitis significantly reduced survival in both patients with good (P = 0.03) and inadequate bile flow (P = 0.03). All 9 patients who had never had cholangitis survived during the follow-up period. Repeated attacks of BC further decreased survival probability. The responsive organisms were mainly enteric bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumanni, and Salmonella typhi. The sensitivity tests justified empirical therapy with ceftriaxone. The effectiveness of prophylactic trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or neomycin warrants further studies. BC was a highly prevalent postoperative complication in patients with BA, especially those with inadequate bile drainage. It significantly affected early mortality. Aggressive and complete treatment with empirical ceftriaxone was appropriate.

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