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Hepatobiliary Surgery

The transformation of liver and biliary tract surgery into a full speciality began with the application of functional anatomy to segmental surgery in the 1950's, reinforced by ultrasound and new imaging techniques. The spectrum of gall-stone disease encountered by the hepatobiliary surgeon has changed with the laparoscopic approach to cholecystectomy. There is increased need for conservation techniques to repair the bile duct injuries that arise more often in the laparoscopic approach to cholecystectomy. These and other surgical interventions on the bile ducts should be selected as a function of risk versus benefit in relation to the patient's requirements and the institutional expertise. Bile duct cancers, including hilar cholangiocarcinoma, and gallbladder cancers have a dismal reputation, but evidence is accumulating for better survivals from aggressive approaches performed by specialist hepatobiliary surgeons. Hepatic surgery has increased in safety and effectiveness, largely due to the segmental approach, but also to experience with techniques for vascular control and exclusion used in liver transplantation. Techniques such as portal vein embolisation, which induces hypertrophy of the future remnant liver, percutaneous local tumour destruction using cryotherapy or radiofrequency tumour coagulation and more effective chemotherapy are beginning to increase the number of patients who can undergo curative resection. In liver transplantation, segmental surgery has been applied to graft reduction and to split liver grafts, and is opening new perspectives for living donor transplantation. Today the limitation to survival in primary and metastatic liver cancer lies not in the surgical technique but in the difficulty of dealing with microscopic and extrahepatic disease. Progress in these fields will enable the hepatobiliary surgeon to further extend the possibilities for proposing curative resections.

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