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Clinical and laboratory features of biliary atresia and patterns of management practices: Saudi national study (2000-2018).

BACKGROUND: We utilized the data from the Saudi national biliary atresia (BA) study (2000-2018) to describe the clinical, biochemical, imaging, and histopathological features of BA and the perioperative clinical practices among local pediatric gastroenterologists.

METHODS: This is a retrospective, multicenter, nationwide study that included 10 tertiary care governmental hospitals including the four liver transplant (LT) centers in different regions across Saudi Arabia.

RESULTS: BA was diagnosed in 204 infants (106 females; 10% preterm). The median age at referral was 65 days. Congenital anomalies were present in 68 patients (33%); 22 were splenic malformation (10.8%). The medians of laboratory investigations were total bilirubin (189 μmol/l), direct bilirubin (139 μmol/l), ALT (164 u/l), and GGT (472 u/l). The level of serum GGT was normal in 26 cases (12.7%). The ultrasound findings included hypoplastic or atrophic gall bladder (GB) (65%), normal GB (30%), and cord sign (5%). A HIDA scan was performed in 99 cases (48.52%). Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) was performed in 27 cases (13%). A total of 179 liver biopsies (88%) were obtained. The most common histopathologic findings were bile duct proliferation (92%), canalicular cholestasis (96%), bile plugs (84%), and portal fibrosis (95%). Cholangiography was performed in 139 cases (68%): operative in 122 (60%) and percutaneous in 17 (8%). A total of 143 children (70%) underwent Kasai portoenterostomy (KPE) at a median age of 70 days. After KPE, steroid was used in 37% of the cases and 100 cases (70%) were prescribed prophylactic antibiotics for variable duration (ranging between 3 and 12 months).

CONCLUSION: Our data show marked variation in the diagnostic evaluation and perioperative management of BA cases among the different tertiary centers. There is a need to establish a national BA registry in Saudi Arabia aiming to standardize pre- and postoperative clinical practices. Additionally, normal serum GGT level, normal GB size on ultrasound, and being a premature baby should not preclude the diagnostic workup for BA.

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