Two hundred and thirty-two patients subjected to open-heart surgery have been analysed regarding early post-operative jaundice. The overall incidence of jaundice was 13%, being 55% where the mitral valve and 5% where the aortic valve was predominantly involved. Only one out of 59 patients in whom a congenital lesion was repaired became jaundiced. Hyperbilirubinaemia without jaundice was common. The biochemical pattern of the jaundice was singularly constant, the most striking feature being the rise in serum bilirubin level. The highest value occurred between the second and tenth post-operative days. At total levels less than about 4 mg./100 ml. the unconjugated fraction usually equalled or exceeded the conjugated. The alkaline phosphatase was normal in the first post-operative week but was sometimes slightly raised in the second, when the bilirubin levels were usually falling. The S.G.P.T. was normal or very slightly raised. Bilirubinuria was present. Centrilobular congestion with no evidence of extrahepatic biliary obstruction was found at post-mortem examination, and liver biopsy in three very severely jaundiced patients revealed only intrahepatic cholestasis. Pre-operative evidence of liver dysfunction was found in 13 patients who subsequently became jaundiced. Twelve had lesions predominantly affecting the mitral valve. Haemolysis, heart failure, and infection probably all played a part, and the effect of operation per se on liver function has been discussed. Drugs and viral hepatitis do not seem implicated in our patients. Maintenance of lower venous pressures in the post-operative period and the use of less blood reduced both the incidence and severity of jaundice.
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