Biliary atresia is a life-threatening disease characterised by progressive destruction of both intra- and extra-hepatic biliary ducts. The mainstay of treatment is Kasai portoenterostomy, as soon as the disease has been confirmed. Glucocorticosteroids are steroid hormones which act on the glucocorticoid receptor and have a range of metabolic and immunomodulatory effects. Glucocorticosteroids are used to improve the postoperative outcomes in infants who have undergone Kasai portoenterostomy.
To assess the beneficial and harmful effects of glucocorticosteroid administration versus placebo or no intervention following Kasai portoenterostomy in infants with biliary atresia.
We searched the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE Ovid, Embase Ovid, Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science), and online trial registries (last search: 20 December 2017) for randomised controlled trials.
We included randomised clinical trials which assessed glucocorticosteroids for infants who have undergone Kasai portoenterostomy. For harm, we also considered quasi-randomised studies, observational studies, and case-control studies that were identified amongst the search results.
We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We assessed the risk of bias for each trial according to prespecified domains. We analysed data using both random-effects and fixed-effect models. We performed the analyses using Review Manager 5.3 and Trial Sequental Analysis software. We considered a P value of 0.025 or less, two-tailed, as statistically significant. We planned to calculate risk ratios (RRs) for dichotomous outcomes, and the mean difference (MD) for continuous outcomes. For all association measures, we planned to use 95% confidence intervals (CIs) as well as Trial Sequential Analysis-adjusted CIs. We used Trial Sequential Analyisis to control the risks of random errors; however, we were often unable to implement this beyond calculating the required information size as there were few trials and data. We assessed the certainty of the evidence using GRADE.
We found two randomised controlled trials fulfilling the inclusion criteria of our review. The trials provided data for meta-analysis. We judged the two trials as trials at low risk of bias. The two trials randomised a total of 213 infants to glucocorticosteroids versus placebo. In our Trial Sequential Analysis, the required information size (that is, the meta-analytic sample size) was not reached for any outcome. Trials were funded by charities, public organisations, and received support from private sector companies, none of which seemed to have an interest in the outcome of the respective trials. The effect of glucocorticosteroids after Kasai portoenterostomy on all-cause mortality is uncertain; the confidence interval is consistent with appreciable benefit and harm (RR 1.00; 95% CI 0.14 to 6.90; low-certainty evidence). The results showed little or no difference in adverse effects between the use of glucocorticosteroids or placebo after Kasai portoenterostomy, however this analysis was based on a single trial and we have low certainty in the result (RR 1.02; 95% CI 0.87 to 1.20;). Available data suggest that the proportions of infants who do not clear their jaundice at six months is similar between the two groups (RR 0.89; 95% CI 0.67 to 1.17; low-certainty evidence). All-cause mortality or liver transplantation did not differ at two years between the two groups (RR 1.00; 95% CI 0.72 to 1.39; low-certainty evidence). There were no data regarding health-related quality of life.Our searches also yielded 19 observational studies, some of them containing limited information on harmful effects of glucocorticosteroid treatment. We presented the extracted information narratively. We identified one further ongoing trial with no currently available results.
The two meta-analysed randomised clinical trials present insufficient evidence to determine the effects of using glucocorticosteroids versus placebo after Kasai portoenterostomy in infants with biliary atresia on any of the primary or secondary review outcomes. There is insufficient evidence to support glucocorticosteroid use in the postoperative management of infants with biliary atresia for long-term outcomes of all-cause mortality or liver transplantation. It is also unclear if glucocorticosteroids are able to reduce the numbers of infants who did not clear their jaundice by six months. Further randomised, placebo-controlled trials are required to be able to determine if glucocorticosteroids may be of benefit in the postoperative management of infants with biliary atresia treated with Kasai portoenterostomy. Such trials need to be conducted as multicentre trials.