JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Adverse effects of exploratory laparotomy in patients with unsuspected liver disease.

Thirty-six patients were referred to the Liver Unit between 1971 and 1980 after unsuspected liver disease had been found at laparotomy. The preoperative diagnosis had been extrahepatic biliary obstruction in 16 patients and intra-abdominal malignancy in 15. Misdiagnosis resulted from insufficient attention to the history and physical signs in 31 patients and omission or misinterpretation of liver function tests and of other hepatobiliary investigations in the remaining 5 patients. The morbidity and mortality of the 36 patients within 1 month of operation was 61 per cent and 31 per cent respectively. All patients with viral or alcoholic hepatitis died, and severe complications, which included bacterial peritonitis, wound dehiscence and hepatic failure, developed in 13 of 15 in whom ascites due to cirrhosis or the Budd-Chiari syndrome was present before operation.

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