Abstract

Background and Aims: During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic a significant proportion of patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19 infection developed secondary sclerosing cholangitis (SSC) as a hepatobiliary complication.


Methods: 17 patients were endoscopically diagnosed and treated with COVID-19 SSC from February 2020 until October 2022 at our center. We retrospectively reviewed and analyzed the data to define risk factors, establish endoscopic treatment options, and to estimate incidence and outcomes.


Results: 258 patients with COVID-19 infection were admitted to our tertiary center and mechanically ventilated. 10 patients developed COVID-19 SSC in-house, and 7 patients were transferred for further endoscopic treatment. All 17 patients were mechanically ventilated, received vasoactive substances and 12 of them were treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERC) was performed in all patients to establish the diagnosis of COVID-19 SSC and evaluate endoscopic treatment options. All ERCs revealed biliary casts. 9 patients had developed severe rarefication of the intrahepatic bile ducts and 4 showed biliary strictures. As endoscopic treatment approaches, casts were removed repeatedly, and strictures were dilated. During the study period, 14 patients died (82%). 3 patients are in follow-up to reassess the need for liver transplantation.


Conclusions: COVID-19 SSC was observed in 2.6 % of the patients with severe COVID-19 in our center. We show that endoscopic approaches offer the opportunity to extract casts and to treat biliary strictures. As the mortality rate of COVID-19 SSC is high, endoscopic treatment can be of great clinical relevance as a bridge to liver transplantation.

Keywords

ARDS, acute respiratory distress syndrome, COVID 19, secondary sclerosing cholangitis