Laparoscopic hepatectomy in a patient with uncontrolled polycythaemia vera
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This case report describes the peri-operative course of a patient with uncontrolled polycythaemia vera who underwent a laparoscopic hepatectomy for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Polycythaemia vera is a chronic condition that results in erythrocytosis and puts patients at risk of peri-operative complications including thrombotic events and paradoxical haemorrhage. Little evidence exists on the ideal peri-operative management of uncontrolled polycythaemia vera when the proposed procedure carries a high risk of haemorrhage. Our patient presented with a pre-operative haemoglobin of 197 g.l-1 (haematocrit 65%) and was not phlebotomised pre-operatively. Intra-operatively he lost 2700 ml of blood, reducing his haematocrit to 48%, and then suffered fatal thrombotic complications postoperatively. The patient did not receive any blood product transfusions during his peri-operative course. We review the available evidence to guide the peri-operative management of patients with polycythaemia vera. The inherent risks of thrombosis and haemorrhage associated with polycythaemia vera need to be weighed against the specific surgical and transfusion-related risks. Phlebotomy to achieve a pre-operative haematocrit under 45% is recommended and intra-operative phlebotomy shows promise for reducing blood loss during hepatectomies. Management of postoperative erythrocytosis may be an important and underappreciated aspect of reducing the peri-operative risk of thrombosis in patients with polycythaemia vera.