Useful Data on Cholangitis Following Kasai Portoenterostomy

A recent retrospective study (SH Baek et al. JPGN 2020; 70: 171-77) provide useful information on cholangitis following a Kasai portoenterostomy in patients (n=160) with biliary atresia (BA).

Key points:

  • 126 of 160 (79%) had at least one episode of cholangitis during the study period (2006-2015).  Median followup was 49 months in those who had cholangitis compared to 33 months for those who did not develop cholangitis.
  • Age at time of Kasai: 63 days in those with cholangitis and 55 days in those without (P=0.42)
  • 76% of patients had recurrent cholangitis
  • Yield from blood culture was 9%.  In those with culture-proven cholangitis, Enterococcus faecium was most common pathogen (28%), followed by E. coli (15%), Enterobacter cloacae (11%), and Klebsiella pneumoniae (9%)
  • In their institution, there was a fairly-low susceptibility of gram-negative bacteria to cefotaxime (8/21, 38%). Almost all gram-negative isolates were susceptible to meropenem.
  • In their institution, there was fairly-low susceptibility of gram-positive organisms to ampicillin (8/19, 42%) and 100% susceptibility to vancomycin.
  • The authors noted that their empiric choice for treatment had been cefotaxime but this has now been reviewed; and a newer regimen, “a frequent alternative,” is the use of vancomycin along with an aminoglycoside.

It is worth noting that Up-to-Date has several recommended regimens for acute cholangitis (in adults).  For lower-risk infections, the authors recommend either a single agent like piperacillin-tazobactam or dual therapy with specific cephalosporins (eg. cefotaxime, ceftriaxone) and metronidazole.  For higher-risk infections, the Up-to-Date recommendations include meropenem or piperacillin-tazobactam as single agents or one of two cephalosporins (cefepime or ceftazidime) along with metronidazole.

My take: Cholangitis is common after biliary atresia.  Familiarity with changing susceptibility, particularly local patterns, will help optimize outcomes.

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30 -Year Outcomes with Biliary Atresia

M Fanna et al. JPGN 2019; 69: 416-24. In this retrospective 30-year study (1986-2015) from France, patients were examined in 4 time cohorts: 1986-96, 1997-2002, 2003-9, and 2010-5.

  • Age at Kasai operation remained stable throughout the study period -median 59 days.
  • Early Kasai was associated with a reduced need for liver transplantation. 25-year survival with native liver was 38%, 27%, 22%, and 19% for patients operated in first, second, third months or later respectively.
  • Clearance of jaundice (total bilirubin ≤20 micromol/L) after Kasai did not change appreciably in the time cohorts and was 38.8%.
  • 753 (of 1428 in cohort) patients underwent liver transplantation.
  • Overall survival of entire cohort was 87% (including all levels of followup).
  • Survival after LT was 79% at 28 years.
  • Five-year patient survival after LT was 76%, 91%, 88%, and 92% in the cohorts, indicating better survival more recently.
  • 22% of patients reached age 30 years without transplantation.

The authors note that better outcomes were noted in a long-term study from Japan where there are lower rates of LT needed for biliary atresia. IN Japan 20-year survival with native liver and overall patient survival was 48% and 89%, compared to 26% and 76% in France.

My take: This study indicates that the majority of patients with BA will require liver transplantation and that earlier Kasai operation is associated with a better chance of survival with native liver.  It is likely that data in the U.S. would be more similar to France than Japan based on prior publications.

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Updated Biliary Atresia Epidemiology

A recent retrospective study (PC Hopkins, N Yazigi, CM Nylund. J Pediatr 2017; 187: 253-7) provides an update on the recent incidence of biliary atresia in the US from 1997-2012. This study relied on coding for biliary atresia or Kasai hepatoportoenterostomy to identify cases using HCUP-KID database.  This database provides a nationally representative sample of pediatric hospitalizations and captures ~96% of pediatric hospitalizations in the US.

Key findings:

  • Incidence of biliary atresia (BA) was 4.47 per 100,000 (1 in 22,371 infants)
  • BA was more common in females (RR 1.43), Asian/Pacific Islanders (RR 1.89), and blacks (RR 1.30)
  • Median age at the time of the Kasai procedure was 63 days with no improvement over the course of the study period.  More than 50% of all children underwent the Kasai procedure after the optimal window of 60 days of life

My take: In my view, at this time, obtaining a blood test for direct bilirubin in the first two weeks of life will need to be adopted broadly if we are going to diagnose biliary atresia at an earlier age.

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Stool Color Cards -Not Flashy but Effective

A recent report (Gu YH et al J Pediatr 2015; 166: 897-902) shows the cumulative experience of 19 years of using stool color cards to detect biliary atresia.  Cards were distributed to all pregnant women (Tochigi Prefecture, Japan) prior to or during the postnatal one-month health check.

Key findings:

  • 34 patients detected among 313,230 live births. Reported sensitivity: 76.5% and specificity 99.9%.
  • Mean age for performance of Kasai was 59.7 days.
  • Improved long-term retention of native liver: 88% at 5 years, 77% at 10 years, and 49% at 15 years.

Limitation: Children in Western countries have had lower success rates following Kasai procedure, so it is unclear whether stool cards would be as effective in different regions.

Take-home message: Detecting biliary atresia earlier will improve outcomes.  Stool color cards should be an easy low-tech option.  Other options would include stool color apps and checking bloodwork.

Image below from Screenshot from John Pohl’s twitter feed:

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