There is controversy about the frequency of and risk factors for infectious complications of percutaneous liver biopsy in liver transplant recipients. The aim of this study was to identify the incidence and nature of complications associated with liver biopsy after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT), with particular emphasis on infection. The medical records of all patients undergoing OLT between January 1990 and August 1994 were reviewed retrospectively to identify complications requiring hospitalization within one week of percutaneous liver biopsy. The nature and severity of complications were recorded and possible risk factors for infectious complications were examined. One hundred ninety-eight patients underwent 1,136 percutaneous liver biopsies. There were eleven complications (0.96%), including as follows: 7 infections, 3 bleeding episodes, and 1 vasovagal reaction. Infections after percutaneous liver biopsy included fever and bacteremia (n = 6), and fever without bacteremia (n = 1). All infections developed only in patients with underlying biliary tract abnormalities; the frequency of infection was higher (9.8%) in patients with choledochojejunostomy when compared with those with choledochocholedochostomy (1.4%). Bacteremia was more likely caused by skin flora in patients with choledochocholedochostomy (CDC) and by enteric bacteria in patients with choledochojejunostomy (CDJ). All infections were treated successfully with parenteral antibiotics. We conclude that biliary tract abnormalities are the primary risk factors for infection after percutaneous liver biopsy, although the risk is higher in patients with CDJ than with CDC. These data support the use of antibiotic prophylaxis before percutaneous liver biopsy in OLT recipients with biliary tract abnormalities.
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