Biliary Obstruction: Symptoms and Diagnosis

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Biliary tract surgery refers to a procedure performed on your biliary tract. The biliary tract is a duct system responsible for transporting bile from the liver to your small intestine. Bile plays an important role in helping your body digest the fat in the food you consume. 

The system has a common bile duct that connects every part of your duct system together, including your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine. Sometimes, blockages form in the duct system that require treatment and, occasionally, biliary tract surgery. Biliary tract surgery is usually performed to remove kidney stones ortreat cancer, strictures, or other illnesses and diseases that may affect the biliary tract system.

What Causes Bile Duct Blockages?

Like many illnesses and medical disorders, there are quite a few causes behind bile duct blockages that may necessitate biliary tract surgery. One of the most common causes of blockages is kidney stones. Other causes are typically linked to more serious medical conditions. Examples include bile duct cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma,and strictures, which are scars that form in the ducts shortly after an infection, inflammation, or surgery. 

Other disorders that may cause bile duct blockages include primary biliary cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis, although both these conditions are rare and tend to cause persistent inflammation in the walls of your bile ducts. Over time, this causes bile duct walls to become narrowed and scarred. 

Biliary atresia is another rare condition that causes bile duct blockages. The condition usually occurs in infants between two and six weeks after birth before the bile ducts have time to develop completely.

Other more common causes include the following:

  • Cysts
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder Injury or Other Trauma
  • Tumors
  • Parasites

Symptoms of Bile Duct Blockages

If you think you may be experiencing bile duct blockages, be on the lookout for a handful of symptoms. With thiscondition, some symptoms can be abrupt and painful, while others appear more gradually over time. Additionally, while some symptoms may result froman increase of waste buildup in your body, others may result from the ducts’ failure to transport important digestive liquids to other parts of the biliary system, such as the intestines. When this happens, your body may struggle to absorb vitamins and fats. 

Common symptoms to keep an eye out for include the following:

  • Yellowing of the Skin or Eyes
  • Persistent Itching
  • Weight Loss
  • Light Brown Urine
  • Night Sweats
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Loss of Appetite

Diagnosing a Biliary Obstruction

If you think you might have a bile duct blockage, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Fortunately, there are many tests available to diagnose bile duct obstructions, including:

  • Blood Tests
  • Ultrasonography
  • Biliary Radionuclide Scan
  • Cholangiography
  • MRI Scan
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) 
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Preventing Bile Duct Obstructions

Like other medical conditions and illnesses, there are preventative measures you can take to prevent obstructions. For starters, try increasing the amount of fiber in your diet and cut back on sugars and saturated fats. Also, if you’re overweight or obese, commit to getting your weight within a healthy range.