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Bile duct obstruction: General information on symptoms and causes

  • Posted on- Aug 27, 2015
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Written by site author.

A bile duct obstruction is a blockage of the bile ducts. The bile ducts carry bile from the liver and gallbladder through the pancreas to 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, but what remains is stored in the gallbladder. After you eat, the gallbladder releases bile to help in digestion and fat absorption. Bile also helps rid the liver of waste products.

Any kind of obstruction of any of these ducts is referred to as a bile duct obstruction. They are quite common too. Many of the conditions related to bile duct obstructions can be treated successfully. However, if the blockage remains untreated for a long period of time, it can lead to life-threatening diseases of the liver.

Causes of bile duct obstruction

bile duct obstruction may be caused by a number of factors involving the bile ducts, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and the small intestine. The following are some of the most common causes:

  • Gallstones, responsible for majority of cases
  • Inflammation of bile ducts
  • Trauma
  • Biliary strictures (abnormal narrowing of the ducts)
  • Cysts
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Injury related to gallbladder or liver surgery
  • Tumours of bile ducts
  • Tumours of pancreas
  • Other tumours which have reached the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or bile ducts
  • Infections, including hepatitis
  • Parasites
  • Liver cirrhosis (liver scarring, severe liver damage)

Signs and Symptoms of bile duct obstruction

The symptoms may be a result of the underlying condition (the cause of the obstruction), and therefore can vary. Patients usually complain of the following symptoms:

Treatment for bile duct obstruction

Treatment depends 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 may include:
  • Cholecystectomy: removal of the gallbladder if there are gallstones
  • ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography): may be sufficient to remove small stones from the common bile duct or to place a stent inside the duct to restore bile flow

Tips to prevent bile duct obstruction

Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make to lower your chances of developing a bile duct obstruction::
  • Increase the fibre in your diet
  • Decrease your consumption of sugar and saturated fats that can cause gallstones
  • If you are overweight, gradually get your weight into a “healthy” range for your sex, age, and height


user profile image
01-06-2017 10:54 PM

I was having some obstruction to bile ducts by gall stones or tumours which further leaded to Jaundice. The treatment was then taken and results are good.

user profile image
22-08-2016 01:17 PM

Great information shared. Good work.

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