African Journal of Paediatric Surgery About APSON | PAPSA  
Home About us Editorial Board Current issue Search Archives Ahead Of Print Subscribe Instructions Submission Contact Login 
Users Online: 1581Print this page  Email this page Bookmark this page Small font size Default font size Increase font size 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE Table of Contents   
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 147-150
Management of biliary perforation in children

Department of Paediatric Surgery, The Children's Hospital and The Institute of Child Health, Lahore, Pakistan

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication18-Sep-2010


Background: To study the aetiology, management and outcome of biliary perforations in paediatric age group. Patients and Methods: In a retrospective study, the records of patients presented with biliary peritonitis due to biliary perforations, managed from March 2006 to July 2009, are reviewed. Results: Eight male patients with biliary peritonitis due to biliary perforation were managed. These patients were divided in two groups, A and B. Group A, (n = 3) patients, had common bile duct (CBD) perforation, and Group B (n=5) patients had gallbladder perforation. The presenting features were abdominal pain, fever, abdominal distension, vomiting, constipation, jaundice and signs of peritonism. The management of CBD perforations in Group A was by draining the site of perforation and biliary diversion (tube cholecystostomy). In Group B, the gallbladder perforations were managed by tube cholecystostomy in four patients and cholecystectomy in one patient, however, one patient had to be re-explored and cholecystectomy performed due to complete necrosis of gall bladder. There was no mortality in our series. All patients were asymptomatic on regular follow-up. Conclusion: Early optimal management of biliary perforations remarkably improved the very high mortality and morbidity that characterised this condition in the past.

Keywords: Common bile duct, gallbladder, perforation, biliary peritonitis

How to cite this article:
Mirza B, Ijaz L, Saleem M, Iqbal S, Sharif M, Sheikh A. Management of biliary perforation in children. Afr J Paediatr Surg 2010;7:147-50

How to cite this URL:
Mirza B, Ijaz L, Saleem M, Iqbal S, Sharif M, Sheikh A. Management of biliary perforation in children. Afr J Paediatr Surg [serial online] 2010 [cited 2022 Sep 27];7:147-50. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Biliary peritonitis following common bile duct (CBD) or gallbladder perforation is a rare entity in paediatric age group, compared with the adult population. [1],[2] In paediatric patients, the CBD may perforate spontaneous, or due to anomalous union of pancreatico-biliary ductal system, congenital weakness of CBD, trauma, associated with choledochal cyst, viral infection, stenosis of CBD, necrotizing enterocolitis, intramural thrombosis, iatrogenic, or stone in the CBD. [3],[4] The causes of gallbladder perforation in paediatric patients include acalculous cholecystitis, trauma, associated typhoid fever, gall stones, ischemic necrosis of the wall due to septicemia or disseminated intravascular coagulation; and it could be spontaneous. [5],[6],[7],[8]

Previously, the reported mortality of biliary peritonitis due to biliary perforations was very high (> 40%) but latest reports described lower rates (12%). Some recent studies even showed no mortality at all. [9],[10],[11],[12],[13] This retrospective study analysed the aetiology, management and outcome of patients presenting with biliary perforation.

   Patients and Methods Top

Three patients with CBD perforation (Group A) and five with gallbladder perforation (Group B) formed the basis of this study. These patients presented at the Department of Paediatric Surgery, The Children's Hospital and The Institute of Child Health Lahore, Pakistan, from March 2006 to July 2009. Each patient's case notes were carefully examined and information on their biodata, presentation, mode of treatment, complications and outcome of management retrieved.

   Results Top

There were a total of eight male patients, in the age group of 2 to 10 years (mean 5.5), with biliary perforations, who presented with biliary peritonitis. The mean duration of illness before hospitalisation was 10.87 days (range of 2 to 30 days). The main presenting feature in all patients were abdominal pain, fever (in seven), abdominal distension (in seven), vomiting (in four), constipation (in two), jaundice (in one) and signs of peritonism in six patients. Six patients (75%) presented with acute fulminating biliary peritonitis whereas 2 (25%) patients presented with sub-acute features.

Two patients in Group A had blunt trauma abdomen, resulting in isolated CBD perforation and biliary peritonitis; in one patient CBD perforation was spontaneous [Figure 1]. In Group B, three patients had enteric fever-related gallbladder perforations, and one in patient each the gallbladder perforation was spontaneous and due to blunt trauma abdomen [Figure 2].
Figure 1 :CBD perforation in a four-year-old child. This perforation was spontaneous in nature.

Click here to view
Figure 2 :Gallbladder perforation in a six-year-old child. This perforation was spontaneous in nature.

Click here to view

In all patients, total leucocytes count (TLC) was elevated, and ranged between 11000 and 20000 (mean 14500). Liver function tests (LFTs) were slightly deranged in two patients, although clinical mild jaundice was present in only one patient. Widal agglutination test was positive in three patients in Group B despite the enteric fever related gallbladder perforations. Haemoglobin level ranged between 9 and 11 g/dl (mean 10.5). In one patient, serum calcium was low. Plain abdominal x-ray showed air fluid levels in two patients. Abdominal ultrasound revealed mild to moderate pelvic collections in three patients, pericholecystic and sub-hepatic collections in two patients.

The pre-operative diagnosis was secondary peritonitis due to perforated appendicitis in five patients, typhoid fever related peritonitis in one patient and suspicion of typhoid fever related gallbladder perforation in one patient. All patients had exploratory laparatomy. Group A (n=3): CBD perforation was close to its union with cystic duct in all patients. Drainage of local site and biliary diversion (tube cholecystostomy) was performed. Postoperative recovery was uneventful in all cases. Retrograde cholangiogram, through tube cholecystostomy, performed on postoperative day 15, showed no leakage and the contrast material was safely passed to the duodenum. Drains and cholecystostomy tube were removed and patients discharged. All the patients were healthy after a minimum of six months follow-up.

Group B (n=5): Gallbladder perforation was found at fundus in two patients, body in two and at multiple sites in one patient. Tube cholecystostomy was performed in four cases while cholecystectomy was performed in one case with multiple perforations. In one patient who had prolonged history (one month), adhesions were present between loops of bowel, necessitating adhesionolysis and ileostomy, in addition to tube cholecystostomy performed because of iatrogenic serosal tears. One patient continued to have persistent peritonism and fever after the tube cholecystostomy. He had a re-operation during which the gallbladder was found to be completely necrosed for which he had cholecystectomy performed.

In cases with tube cholecystostomy, retrograde cholangiogram was performed on postoperative day 15 to rule out any distal obstruction [Figure 3]. Patients were discharged after removing the cholecystostomy tubes. Only one patient has had a follow-up of one month, others have had more than a year's symptom-free period of follow-up. In each patient with tube cholecystostomy the bilio-cutaneous fistula closed spontaneously within few days of removing the tube.
Figure 3 :Retrograde cholangiogram through tube cholecystostomy. Note that there is no leakage, filling defect or abnormal constriction anywhere in the biliary tract.

Click here to view

Postoperative complications were found in two patients. These included wound infection in one patient, and persistent collection and peritonism in other. The hospital stay was between 9 to 25 days (mean: 16.5 days). The summary of patients with reference to their aetiology and management is presented in [Table 1].
Table 1 :Summary of aetiology, management performed for biliary perforations

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

Biliary peritonitis due to CBD or gallbladder perforation is scarcely reported in paediatric age group as compared to the adult population. Very few case reports and limited case studies have been published indicating the rarity of the condition in this age group. CBD perforation is commoner than gallbladder perforation in paediatric patients. [1],[2],[6],[7],[14] In our series, however, there were more cases of gallbladder perforations than CBD perforations, probably because of the high incidence of typhoid fever and its related surgical complications in our region. Our institution receives a lot of referrals from all over Pakistan and some times, Afghanistan. This might explain the reason for the high number of patients with biliary perforation seen in this three-year period.

Various factors have been identified to cause biliary perforations including, distal obstruction, and congenital weakness of wall, anomalous union of pancreatico-biliary ducts, infections, trauma, inflammation, stone-related and iatrogenic injury. [3],[4],[5],[8],[15] In our series, the main causes of biliary perforations are trauma and typhoid infection. Enteric fever is almost an exclusive affliction of the developing world, caused mainly by unhygienic conditions and poor sanitation, and presents with a wide variety of systemic manifestations. Some of its surgical importance relates to its serious abdominal complications such as intestinal perforation, bleeding, cholecystitis, gallbladder perforation and pancreatitis. [16] Each year we managed at least one patient of typhoid-related gallbladder perforation in our institution.

Patients with biliary perforations can present acutely or insidiously. Acute presentation includes fever, severe pain abdomen, peritonism, vomiting and shock. The insidious or sub-acute presentation includes progressive jaundice, painless abdominal distension and clay coloured stools. [17],[18] In our series, six patients presented with acute fulminant biliary peritonitis and two patients with insidious mode of presentation.

Peritonitis due to biliary perforations is a very rare disease causing difficulties in pre-operative diagnosis. Various studies depicted only a few cases in which pre-operative diagnosis was possible. [5],[19],[20],[21] In our study, we suspected biliary perforation in only one out of eight patients. In most of cases, our pre-operative diagnosis was secondary peritonitis due to perforated appendicitis.

Abdominal X-ray is not a modality of choice to diagnose this condition. Abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, MRI and radionuclide scans are important tools in the diagnosis. [5],[19],[20],[21] However, operation should not be unduly delayed due to unavailability of these diagnostic tools if there are established features of generalised peritonitis.

The surgical management options in CBD perforation are simple drainage at the site of perforation, with or without biliary diversion and with or without closing the perforation. Many authors are not in favour of closing the perforation. Previously cholecystectomy with CBD excision and Roux-en-y hepatico-enterostomy was performed for CBD perforation. But now, it is preferred and reserved for non-treatable distal obstruction, persistent bilio-cutaneous fistula, persistent biliary leak, choledochal cyst associated CBD perforation etc. [2],[3],[7],[8],[17],[18],[22] The management options for gallbladder perforation are cholecystectomy and tube cholecystostomy. Cholecystectomy is the preferred method but due to inflammation in that region, sometimes operative morbidity can rise due to difficulty in identifying structures. There are various studies showing successful management of acute phase of biliary perforations by percutaneously placement of ultrasound / CT guided drains. [1],[9],[10],[11]

We successfully managed the CBD perforations by local drainage and biliary diversion. Gallbladder perforations were managed by performing tube cholecystostomy preferably in most of our patients, although in case with multiple perforations and complete necrosis of gallbladder, cholecystectomy was preferred. Tube cholecystostomy, as the primary modality to manage gallbladder perforation, is preferred in our series because it is a simple surgical technique and even residents can perform it with ease; it is safer in cases where identification of various important structures in that area is precluded by inflammation and adhesions.

Postoperative complications of biliary perforations are wound infection, burst abdomen, persistent peritonitis, prolonged ileus, ligation of CBD during cholecystectomy, haemobilia, gallbladder necrosis etc. [9],[10],[12],[21] We were lucky to have only a few postoperative complications.

In 1942, Glenn et al. reported 42% mortality rate in biliary peritonitis. This was further reduced to 12-16% in some other studies, and more recent studies have reported zero mortality rate. [9],[10],[11] This is also true in our study. The main reasons for this reduction in mortality are early surgical intervention and development of better intensive care modalities.

To conclude, biliary peritonitis due to biliary perforation is a manageable condition in paediatric patients. Early diagnosis and surgical intervention can reduce mortality and morbidity and ensure a good prognosis.

   References Top

1.Kim HJ, Park SJ, Lee SB, Lee JK, Jung HS, Choi CK, et al. A case of spontaneous gallbladder perforation. Korean J Intern Med 2004;19:128-31.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
2.Marwah S, Sen J, Goyal A, Marwah N, Sharma JP. Spontaneous perforation of the common bile duct in an adult. Ann Saudi Med 2005;25:58-9.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
3.Sen M, Turan M, Kurt A, Er Y. Spontaneous perforation of the ductus choledochus: Case report. Cumhuriyet Med J 2009;31:75-7.  Back to cited text no. 3      
4.Hasegawa T, Udatsu Y, Kamiyama M, Kimura T, Sasaki T, Okada A, et al. Does pancreatico-biliary maljunction play a role in spontaneous perforation of the bile duct in children? Pediatr Surg Int 2000;16:550-3.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]    
5.Ong CL, Wong TH, Rauff A. Acute gallbladder perforation-a dilemma in early diagnosis. Gut 1991;32:956-8.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
6.Kasat LS, Borwankar SS, Jain M, Naregal A. Spontaneous perforation of extrahepatic bile duct in an infant. Pediatr Surg Int 2001;17:463-4.   Back to cited text no. 6  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
7.Moore T, Cameron R. Spontaneous perforation of the extrahepatic biliary tract in infancy and childhood: Review of 77 operatively managed cases. Pediatr Surg 1986;1:205-9.  Back to cited text no. 7      
8.Sai Prasad TR, Chui CH, Low Y, Chong CL, Jacobsen AS. Bile duct perforation in children: Is it truly spontaneous? Ann Acad Med Singapore 2006;35:905-8.  Back to cited text no. 8  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
9.Abdur-Rahman OL, Adeniran OJ, Nasir AA. Outcome of acalculous cholecystitis from typhoid in Nigerian children. J Natl Med Assoc 2009;101:717-9.  Back to cited text no. 9  [PUBMED]    
10.Saxena V, Basu S, Sharma CL. Perforation of the gallbladder following typhoid fever-induced ileal perforation. Hong Kong Med J 2007;13:475-7.  Back to cited text no. 10  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
11.vanSonnenberg E, D'Agostino HB, Casola G, Hoyt DB, Lurie A, Varney RR. Gallbladder perforation and bile leakage: Percutaneous treatment. Radiology 1991;178:687-9.  Back to cited text no. 11  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
12.Pandey A, Gangopadhyay AN, Kumar V. Gallbladder perforation as a complication of typhoid fever. Saudi J Gastroenterol 2008;14:213.  Back to cited text no. 12  [PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
13.Derici H, Kara C, Bozdag AD, Nazli O, Tansug T, Akca E. Diagnosis and treatment of gallbladder perforation. World J Gastroenterol 2006;12:7832-6.  Back to cited text no. 13  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
14.Wang AJ, Wang TE, Lin CC, Lin SC, Shih SC. Clinical predictors of severe gallbladder complications in acute acalculous cholecystitis. World J Gastroenterol 2003;9:2821-3.  Back to cited text no. 14  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
15.Laffey DA, Hay DJ. Isolated perforation of the gallbladder following blunt abdominal trauma. Postgrad Med J 1979;55:212-4.  Back to cited text no. 15  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
16.Khanna AK, Tiwary SK, Kanna R. Surgical complications of enteric fever in children. J Pdiatr Infect Dis 2007;2:59-66.  Back to cited text no. 16      
17.Yadav K, Pathak IC. Biliary peritonitis following blunt abdominal trauma in children: Report of a case. Am J Gastroenterol 1979;72:444-7.  Back to cited text no. 17  [PUBMED]    
18.Kanojia RP, Sinha SK, Rawat J, Wakhlu A, Kureel S, Tandon R. Spontaneous biliary perforation in infancy and childhood: Clues to diagnosis. Indian J Pediatr 2007;74:509-10.  Back to cited text no. 18  [PUBMED]    
19.Estevao-Costa J, Soares-Oliveira M, Lopes JM, Carvalho JL. Idiopathic perforation of gallbladder: A novel differential diagnosis of acute abdomen. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2002;35:88-9.  Back to cited text no. 19      
20.Carubelli CM, Abramo TJ. Abdominal distension and shock in an infant. Am J Emerg Med 1999;17:342-4.  Back to cited text no. 20  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
21.Goldberg D, Rosenfeld D, Underberg-Davis S. Spontaneous biliary perforation: Biloma resembling a small bowel duplication cyst. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2000;31:201-3.   Back to cited text no. 21  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
22.Spigland N, Greco R, Rosenfeld D. Spontaneous biliary perforation: Does external drainage constitute adequate therapy? J Pediatr Surg 1996;31:782-4.  Back to cited text no. 22  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  

Correspondence Address:
Bilal Mirza
H/no. 428 Nishter Block, Allama Iqbal Town, Lahore
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0189-6725.70413

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

  [Table 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Spontaneous perforation of common hepatic duct: an intraoperative surprise
Y. Kerkeni, F. Thamri, A. Zouaoui, B. Aziza, R. Jouini
Annals of Pediatric Surgery. 2022; 18(1)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Spontaneous Acalculous Gallbladder Perforation in an Adolescent Male: A Case Report and Literature Review
Hassan Bin Ajmal, Nimra Hasnain, Saima Sagheer
Cureus. 2021;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Spontaneous perforation of the cystic duct in an infant
Workye Tigabie, Goytom Knfe Tesfay, Yeneneh Yirga
Journal of Pediatric Surgery Case Reports. 2021; : 102168
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Undetected spontaneous gallbladder perforation in a child with cardiac cirrhosis
Kachaporn Nimdet,Palinee Nantarakchaikul,Ekapon Pongmanavuth
Journal of Pediatric Surgery Case Reports. 2014;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 result 1 Document Spontaneous biliary perforations: An uncommon yet important entity in children
Goel, P., Jain, V., Manchanda, V., (...), Gupta, C.R., Mohta, A.
Source of the Document Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2013;


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Patients and Methods
    Article Figures
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded272    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 5    

Recommend this journal