The incidence, nature, and mechanisms of adverse reaction following postoperative T-tube cholangiogram have received little attention in the medical literature. This paper presents the experience at one hospital over a 30-month period (1975–1977) covering 139 patients who had 170 cholangiograms. Factors examined included intraoperative and postoperative cultures of bile, the use of antibiotics prior to the performance of the cholangiogram, the technique of cholangiography, the interval between operation and cholangiogram. Eleven (6.5%) cholangiograms were followed by an adverse reaction. Two of these reactions were severe, manifested by signs of septic shock. The administration of antibiotics was not associated with a reduction in adverse reactions. The cholangiographic technique of gravity infusion of dye, which effectively limits the amount of pressure generated during the study, was associated with a significant reduction in adverse reactions. No severe reactions occurred following any study performed by the gravity technique. There was no significant correlation between the age of the patient or the number of days postoperative with adverse reaction. A review of the literature suggests that the mechanism for these severe reactions is chol-angiovenous reflux. The avoidance of high intraductal pressures (above 25 cm of water) during the performance of postoperative T-tube cholangiogram should significantly reduce the incidence of adverse reactions.
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