Abdominal drainage is contraindicated after uncomplicated hepatectomy: Results of a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Published:November 22, 2022DOI:



      No conclusive recommendations exist regarding use of abdominal drainage in hepatectomy. The practice of abdominal drainage remains commonplace despite unfavorable outcomes reported by randomized controlled trials. We aimed to compare the impact of abdominal drainage on outcomes of hepatectomy.


      A systematic search of electronic information sources and bibliographic reference lists was conducted. A combination of free text and controlled vocabulary search adapted to thesaurus headings, search operators, and limits in each of the above databases was applied. Overall perioperative and wound-related complications, bile leak, intra-abdominal collections (including those requiring an intervention), and the length of hospital stay were the evaluated outcome parameters.


      Seven randomized controlled trials reporting 1,064 patients undergoing hepatectomy with (n = 533) or without (n = 531) placement of abdominal drain were included. Patients in both groups were of comparable age (P = .23), sex (P = .49), proportion of major hepatectomy (P = .93), minor hepatectomy (P = .96), cirrhosis (P = .78), and malignant pathologies (P = .61). Drainage after hepatectomy was associated with significantly higher overall complications (RR: 1.37, P = .0003) and wound-related complications (risk ratio: 2.29, P = .01) compared to no drainage. Moreover, there was no significant difference in bile leak (risk ratio: 2.15, P = .19), intra-abdominal collections (risk ratio: 1.13, P = .70), intra-abdominal collections requiring interventions (risk ratio: 1.19, P = .71), or length of hospital stay (mean difference: 0.37, P = .67) between the 2 groups. The trial sequential analysis confirmed conclusiveness of the findings.


      Abdominal drainage after hepatectomy increases overall and wound-related complications, without any reduction in the risk of intra-abdominal collections needing an intervention. Routine drainage after an uncomplicated hepatectomy should be avoided, with the possible exception of the presence of a bilioenteric anastomosis.
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