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Should We Offer Surgery for Biliary Atresia in Low-Resource Settings? Surgical Outcomes in Rwanda

Kyung Woo Hong, Deborah Igiraneza, James Davis, Alice Nsengiyumva, Andrea Riner, Robin T Petroze, Edmond Ntaganda

Background: In many resource-limited settings, patients with biliary atresia present too late for surgical correction to be offered, and the diagnosis is fatal. As pediatric surgical and anesthesia capabilities have improved, patients in Rwanda have been offered surgical exploration. This study explores initial outcomes.
Methods: Patients presenting with direct hyperbilirubinemia and clinical suspicion of biliary atresia were identified at the main university teaching hospital in Kigali, Rwanda, from January 2016 to June 2019. Patient demographics, referral history, geographic location, preoperative imaging, preoperative laboratory studies, operative details, postoperative laboratory studies, in-hospital complications, length of stay, and survival were abstracted from retrospective chart review. Descriptive analysis was performed, and univariate analysis evaluated survival and complications.
Results: Seventeen patients were identified with biliary atresia, and thirteen were offered surgery. The median age of admission was 77 d (interquartile range [IQR] 63-92 d), with the median time wait for the operation being 19 d (IQR 9-27 d). The median age at operation was 93 d (IQR 76-123 d). In-hospital postoperative mortality was 15.4% (n = 2) and postoperative complications occurred in 46.2% (n = 6). Eleven patients survived to hospital discharge (84.6%), with a median length of stay of 8 d (IQR 6-13 d).
Conclusions: While future studies are needed to evaluate the long-term outcomes, this series shows that surgical treatment of biliary atresia can be safely performed in Rwanda. Early referral of direct hyperbilirubinemia is essential, particularly as limited resources and personnel may impact the time from diagnosis to operation. Keywords: Biliary atresia; Global surgery; Pediatric surgery.
Link: Should We Offer Surgery for Biliary Atresia in Low-Resource Settings? Surgical Outcomes in Rwanda - PubMed (nih.gov)