What Is Biliary Obstruction?
A biliary obstruction is a blockage of the bile ducts. The
bile ducts carry bile from the liver and gallbladder through the pancreas to
the duodenum, which is a part of the small intestine. Bile is a dark-green or
yellowish-brown fluid secreted by the liver to digest fats. Much of the bile is
released directly into the small intestine, and what remains is stored in the
After you eat, the gallbladder releases bile to help in
digestion and fat absorption. Bile also helps rid the liver of waste products. Obstruction
of any of these bile ducts is referred to as a biliary obstruction.
Many of the conditions related to biliary obstructions can
be treated successfully. However, if the blockage remains untreated for a long time,
it can lead to life-threatening diseases of the liver.
You have several types of bile
ducts. The two types of bile ducts in the liver are intrahepatic and
Intrahepatic ducts are a system of smaller tubes within the
liver that collect and transport bile to the extrahepatic ducts. The
extrahepatic ducts begin as two parts, one on the right of the liver and the
other on the left. As they descend from the liver, they unite to form the
common hepatic duct. This runs directly toward the small intestine.
The biliary duct, or the duct from the gallbladder, also
opens into the common hepatic duct. The bile duct from this point onward is
known as the common bile duct or choledochus. Before emptying into the small
intestine, the common bile duct passes through the pancreas.
What Causes Biliary Obstruction?
A biliary obstruction may be caused by a number of factors
- bile ducts
- small intestine
The following are some of the most common causes of biliary
which are the most common cause
of the bile ducts
biliary stricture, which is an abnormal narrowing of the duct
- an injury
related to gallbladder or liver surgery
of the bile ducts
of the pancreas
tumors that have reached the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or bile ducts
or scarring of the liver
What Are the Risk Factors?
The risk factors for biliary obstruction usually depend on
the cause of the obstruction. The majority of the cases are a result of
gallstones, making women more vulnerable to developing a biliary obstruction.
Other risk factors include:
history of gallstones
- a history
of tumors in the right part of the abdomen
- an injury
to the right part of the abdomen
What Are the Symptoms of Biliary Obstruction?
The symptoms of biliary obstruction can depend on the cause
of the obstruction. They can vary. People with biliary obstruction usually
skin or eyes, which indicates jaundice
in the upper right side of the abdomen
How Is a Biliary Obstruction Diagnosed?
Various tests are available for people who may have a
A blood test includes a complete blood count (CBC) and liver
function test. Blood tests can usually rule out certain conditions, such as:
- cholecystitis, which is an inflammation of the
- cholangitis, which is an inflammation of the
common bile duct
- an increased level of conjugated bilirubin,
which is a waste product of the liver
- an increased level of liver enzymes
- an increased level of alkaline phosphatase
Any of these may indicate a loss of bile flow.
Ultrasonography is usually the first test performed on
anyone suspected of a biliary obstruction. It allows your doctor to see the gallstones
Radionuclide Scan (HIDA scan)
iminodiacetic acid scan, or HIDA scan, is also referred to as a biliary radionuclide
scan. It uses radioactive material to provide valuable information about
the gallbladder and any possible obstructions.
A cholangiography is an X-ray of the bile ducts.
An MRI scan provides detailed pictures of the liver,
gallbladder, pancreas, and bile ducts.
Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is used
for the diagnosis of biliary obstructions and pancreatic disease.
Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) involves
the use of an endoscope and X-ray. It’s both a diagnostic and therapeutic tool.
It allows your surgeon to see the bile ducts and it’s also used in treatment.
This tool is particularly helpful because your doctor can use it to remove
stones and take biopsy samples if necessary.
What Is the Treatment for Biliary Obstruction?
Treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying cause. The
primary objective of medical or surgical treatment is to alleviate the
blockage. Some of the treatment options include a cholecystectomy and an ERCP.
is the removal of the gallbladder if there are gallstones. An ERCP may be sufficient to remove small
stones from the common bile duct or to place a stent inside the duct to restore
Can Biliary Obstruction Be Prevented?
Here are a few changes you can make to lower your chances of
developing a biliary obstruction:
the amount of fiber in your diet.
the amount of sugar and saturated fats in your diet. These can both cause
you’re overweight, gradually get your weight into a healthy range for your
sex, age, and height.