Objective: To conduct a meta-analysis to enhance understanding of the risks of biliary complications, particularly ischemic cholangiopathy (IC), after donation after cardiac death (DCD) compared with donation after brain death (DBD) liver transplantation. Background: Biliary complications after liver transplantation have profound health and economic implications which merit further investigation. Methods: The MELDINE (1950-2009), EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases were searched and supplemented by review of conference proceedings and publication bibliographies. All original single institution studies reporting outcomes for DCD and DBD liver transplant recipients were considered. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) based on random effects models were calculated. Results: Eleven publications, all retrospective cohort studies, involving 489 DCD and 4455 DBD recipients, were included. Donation after cardiac death recipients had a 2.4 times increased odds of biliary complications (95% CI = 1.8-3.4) and a 10.8 times increased odds of IC (95% CI = 4.8-24.2). Ischemic cholangiopathy was present in 16% of DCD compared with 3% of DBD recipients. Donation after cardiac death recipients also experienced higher odds of 1-year patient mortality (OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.04-2.5) and graft failure (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.5-2.8). Conclusions: Donation after cardiac death liver transplantation is marred by inferior outcomes including higher rates of biliary complications and IC as well as increased mortality and graft failure. Despite current federal mandates to increase DCD donation, these serious complications translate into poor outcomes for individuals and increased healthcare costs. These risks should be considered in decisions regarding the utilization of these grafts.
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