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      Bronchobiliary fistula following radiofrequency ablation for liver metastases from breast cancer : A case report and literature review

      , MS, , MD, , MS, , MD, , MD, , MD, PhD


      Wolters Kluwer Health

      bilioptysis, breast cancer, bronchobiliary fistula, liver metastases, radiofrequency ablation

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          Bronchobiliary fistula (BBF) is a rare clinical condition which is characterized by a channel between biliary tract and bronchial tree. BBF can present with fever, dyspnea, and cough. However, it can be easily misdiagnosed as biliary vomiting, dyspnea, or even severe pneumonia.

          Patient concerns:

          A 53-year-old woman was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2011 and underwent radical mastectomy and lymph node dissection, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Unfortunately, the patient suffered from bone metastasis during the 1st year and liver metastasis during the 2nd year after radical mastectomy. In 2013, the patient underwent transcatheter arterial chemoembolization therapy twice for liver metastasis. The patient was then treated with radiofrequency ablation (RFA) in 2016. Unfortunately, the patient developed a cough with bitter-tasting yellow sputum and chest tightness 2 weeks after the RFA treatment. Approximately 6 months later, the patient still complained of a cough with yellow sputum and persistent chest tightness. The patient was then admitted to our department.


          The presence of bile in the sputum supported a diagnosis of BBF. Bronchoscopy was performed, and the presence of bile in the lavage fluid confirmed the diagnosis of BBF.


          The patient was treated with antibiotics including sulbactam, cefoperazone, levofloxacin and meropenem, was well as hepatoprotectants, nutritional support and other supportive treatments in our department.


          The patient died because of liver failure.


          This case demonstrates that we should consider the possibility of BBF when patients experience a recurrent cough with discolored sputum after RFA. In particular, a diagnosis of BBF should be considered in patients who do not respond to antibiotic treatment.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation for hepatocellular carcinoma. An analysis of 1000 cases.

          Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) was introduced recently as a therapeutic modality for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), an alternative to percutaneous ethanol injection therapy (PEIT), which is coming into use worldwide. Previously reported treatment efficacy and complication rates have varied considerably. Between February 1999 and February 2003, the authors performed 1000 treatments of RFA to 2140 HCC nodules in 664 patients with a cooled-tip electrode at the University of Tokyo Hospital (Tokyo, Japan). Short-term and long-term complications were analyzed by treatment and session basis. Cumulative survival was also assessed in 319 patients who received RFA as primary treatment (naive patients) and 345 patients who received RFA for recurrent tumor after previous treatment including resection, PEIT, microwave coagulation therapy, and transarterial embolization (nonnaive patients). A total of 40 major complications (4.0% per treatment, 1.9% per session) and 17 minor complications (1.7% per treatment, 0.82% per session) were observed during the observation period until March 31, 2004. There were no treatment-related deaths. Surgical intervention was required in one case each of bile peritonitis and duodenal perforation. The cumulative survival rates at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years were 94.7%, 86.1%, 77.7%, 67.4%, and 54.3% for naive patients, whereas the cumulative survival rates were 91.8%, 75.6%, 62.4%, 53.7%, and 38.2% for nonnaive patients, respectively. The authors confirmed the safety and efficacy of RFA for HCC in a large-scale series and long-term prognosis was satisfactory.
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            Complications of radiofrequency coagulation of liver tumours.

            Radiofrequency coagulation (RFC) is being promoted as a novel technique with a low morbidity rate in the treatment of liver tumours. The purpose of this study was to assess critically the complication rates of RFC in centres with both large and limited initial experience, and to establish causes and possible means of prevention and treatment. This is an exhaustive review of the world literature (articles and abstracts) up to 31 December 2001; 82 independent reports of RFC of liver tumours were analysed. In total, 3670 patients were treated with percutaneous, laparoscopic or open RFC. The mortality rate was 0.5 per cent. Complications occurred in 8.9 per cent: abdominal bleeding in 1.6 per cent, abdominal infection in 1.1 per cent, biliary tract damage in 1.0 per cent, liver failure in 0.8 per cent, pulmonary complications in 0.8 per cent, dispersive pad skin burn in 0.6 per cent, hepatic vascular damage in 0.6 per cent, visceral damage in 0.5 per cent, cardiac complications in 0.4 per cent, myoglobinaemia or myoglobinuria in 0.2 per cent, renal failure in 0.1 per cent, tumour seeding in 0.2 per cent, coagulopathy in 0.2 per cent, and hormonal complications in 0.1 per cent. The complication rate was 7.2, 9.5, 9.9 and 31.8 per cent after a percutaneous, laparoscopic, simple open and combined open approach respectively. The mortality rate was 0.5, 0, 0 and 4.5 per cent respectively. The morbidity and mortality of RFC, while low, is higher than previously assumed. With adequate knowledge, many complications are preventable.
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              Management of acquired bronchobiliary fistula: A systematic literature review of 68 cases published in 30 years.

              To outline the appropriate diagnostic methods and therapeutic options for acquired bronchobiliary fistula (BBF). Literature searches were performed in Medline, EMBASE, PHMC and LWW (January 1980-August 2010) using the following keywords: biliobronchial fistula, bronchobiliary fistula, broncho-biliary fistula, biliary-bronchial fistula, tracheobiliary fistula, hepatobronchial fistula, bronchopleural fistula, and biliptysis. Further articles were identified through cross-referencing. Sixty-eight cases were collected and reviewed. BBF secondary to tumors (32.3%, 22/68), including primary tumors (19.1%, 13/68) and hepatic metastases (13.2%, 9/68), shared the largest proportion of all cases. Biliptysis was found in all patients, and other symptoms were respiratory symptoms, such as irritating cough, fever (36/68) and jaundice (20/68). Half of the patients were treated by less-invasive methods such as endoscopic retrograde biliary drainage. Invasive approaches like surgery were used less frequently (41.7%, 28/67). The outcome was good at the end of the follow-up period in 28 cases (range, 2 wk to 72 mo), and the recovery rate was 87.7% (57/65). The clinical diagnosis of BBF can be established by sputum analysis. Careful assessment of this condition is needed before therapeutic procedure. Invasive approaches should be considered only when non-invasive methods failed.

                Author and article information

                Medicine (Baltimore)
                Medicine (Baltimore)
                Wolters Kluwer Health
                October 2018
                26 October 2018
                : 97
                : 43
                Department of Respiratory Medicine, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, Jinan, Shandong Province, China.
                Author notes
                []Correspondence: Yi-Qing Qu, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, No 107, Wenhuaxi Road, Jinan 250000, China (e-mail: yiqing_qu@ 123456163.com ).
                MD-D-18-02753 12760
                Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

                This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CCBY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

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