The most common symptom of a blockage of the bile duct is pain in the middle of the night in the upper abdomen. It is often described as aching, sharp, or burning and can radiate to the back, below the rib cage, and into the shoulders.
In some cases, the pain can also be felt in the back.
This pain can be severe, and it is not uncommon for people to seek medical advice.
Some people will have a small amount of jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. People may have a high temperature, nausea, and vomiting.
What causes a blockage of the bile duct?
The bile duct is a tube that transports bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine.
Sometimes it can become blocked. This can occur for many reasons, including:
- Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
- Gallbladder cancer
- A problem with the gallbladder’s lining (cholangitis)
How is a blockage of the bile duct diagnosed?
If you are having symptoms of gallstones, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will take a thorough history and ask about your symptoms and your family’s medical history. Based on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will plan a treatment plan for you.
Your doctor will also order a CT scan or an ultrasound of your abdomen to make sure that there are no other problems.
How is a blockage of the bile duct treated?
The treatment for a blockage of a bile duct depends on the cause.
Antibiotics may be prescribed. If the infection is caused by bacteria, you may need to take antibiotics for a number of days.
The doctor will remove the gallbladder and remove the stones. A small tube may be inserted into the gallbladder to drain bile.
Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for a few days to help prevent infection.
A laparoscopic or percutaneous surgery may be recommended to remove the cancer. If the cancer is large, your doctor may need to remove part of the stomach.
A blockage of the bile duct in the bile ducts (cholangiocarcinoma)
If the cancer is found early, you may undergo a procedure called a hepaticoduodenostomy. This surgery allows the bile duct to bypass the tumor.
What is the long-term outlook for people with a blockage of the bile duct?
Most people will have no long-term complications. In some cases, the blockage can cause problems, including:
- Bile that backs up into the pancreas, causing pancreatitis
- Kidney stones
- An obstruction of the bile duct (bile duct obstruction)
What are the signs that a blockage of the bile duct is serious?
A blockage of the bile duct can cause a number of serious problems. It is important to seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Jaundiced skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pale or clay-colored stools
- Darken the skin (jaundice)
- Anemia (low red blood cells)
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- A lump in the right upper part of the abdomen (abdomen)
- An enlarged liver
- A painless, non-stop lump in the right upper part of the abdomen, near the liver
- A blocked common bile duct
- A lump in the liver
- A liver mass
- Bleeding from the liver
- Pneumonia (liver abscess)
How can a blockage of the bile duct be prevented?
Practice good personal hygiene. Drink plenty of water.
If you have gallstones, the following tips may help:
- Eat a low-fat diet
- Drink more water
- Avoid fatty foods and sugary foods
- Avoid chocolate, caffeine, and fatty foods
- Avoid spicy foods
What is the outlook for people with a blockage of the bile duct?
Most people with a blockage of the bile duct have no complications. The blockage often heals on its own.
However, if the blockage is severe, it may cause symptoms, such as:
These are typically rare, and most people with a blockage of the bile duct will have no long-term complications.
Who can get a diagnosis of a blockage of the bile duct?
You should see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Signs of infection, such as a high temperature, chills, or diarrhea
- Signs of an obstruction
What is the treatment for a blockage of the bile duct?
If you have symptoms of a blockage of the bile duct, you will need to see a doctor.
Your doctor will order a CT scan or an ultrasound of your abdomen. Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor may order a number of tests.
Your doctor may also order:
- A thin, flexible scope, called a cholangiogram
- Blood tests
- Gallbladder stent placement
If a blockage is found, your doctor will treat it with a procedure known as a hepaticoduodenostomy.
What are the complications of a blockage of the bile duct?
A blockage of a bile duct can cause a number of serious complications, including:
- Kidney infections
- Kidney failure
If the blockage is severe, it can cause:
- Liver abscess
- Severe jaundiced skin
- Jaundiced eyes and skin
Surgery is the only way to remove a blockage of the bile duct. The blockage usually heals on its own within a matter of days.
What is the long-term outlook for people with a blockage of a bile duct and a gallstone?
The outlook depends on the cause of the blockage. Most people will have no long-term complications. In some cases, the blockage can cause complications, such as:
- Bile that backs up into the pancreas, causing pancreatic infection
- Jaundiced, chalky skin
- Kidney irritation
- A lump in your right upper abdomen (abdomen)
- A lump in your liver
How can a blockage of a bile duct cause long-term problems?
A blockage of a bile duct can cause long-term problems, including:
- Gallstone formation
- Blockage of the common bile duct
- Obstruction of the bile duct
- Bile that backs up into the pancreas
- Bile that passes through the pancreatic duct into the small intestine
- Kidney infection
- Liver infection
- Liver damage
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
- Liver cirrhosis
What is the outlook for people with jaundiced bile?
The outlook depends on the cause of the bile duct blockage and the severity of the blockage.
If the cause of the blockage is jaundiced bile, your outlook depends on the cause of the jaundiced bile.
If the cause of the blockage is gallstones, your outlook depends on the cause of the gallstones.
If the cause of the blockage is gallstones and other blockages, your outlook depends on the cause of the other blockages.
What are the causes of a blockage of a bile duct and gallstones?
Doctors are not sure what causes a blockage of a bile duct.
A blockage can happen when gallstones get stuck in the bile duct.
Sometimes, a blockage can also happen when the gallbladder or the bile duct wall is injured.
Sometimes a blockage of a bile duct can be caused by gallbladder cancer.
What are the treatment options for a blockage of a bile duct and gallstones or gallbladder cancer?
If you have a blockage of a bile duct and gallstones or gallbladder cancer, your doctor may recommend:
- A stent to keep the bile duct open
- Surgery to remove the gallbladder
- Surgery to remove the gallstones
- Surgery to remove the cancer
- Radiation treatment
- Liver transplant
What is a bile duct stent?
A bile duct stent is a thin, flexible scope, called a cholangiogram, that is inserted into the bile duct. A cholangiogram is an X-ray test that shows the inside of the bile ducts.
A cholangiogram allows your doctor to see if a blockage of a bile duct is causing jaundiced bile.
A bile duct stent is used to treat a blockage of a bile duct. It is not a procedure.
A bile duct stent is not used to treat gallstones.
Bile duct stents are not used to treat the following:
- Gallbladder stones
- Blockages of the bile duct caused by other problems
- Gallbladder inflammation
- Gallbladder infection
- Gallbladder carcinoma
- Gallbladder cirrhosis
- Gallbladder polyps
- Gallbladder perforation
How do I prepare for a bile stent procedure?
You may need to take some medicines before the procedure. These include:
- A pain reliever
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- A medicine to lower your blood pressure
What happens during a bile stent procedure?
A stent is typically inserted during the same appointment that you have with a doctor.
You will likely be asked to lie down on an examination table. Your doctor will use a thin, flexible scope, called a cholangiogram, to insert the stent.
The stent is typically placed in the lower part of your bile duct. The stent will not be visible on an X-ray.
After the stent is inserted, your doctor will place a drainage tube through the stent into your abdominal cavity. This tube will drain the fluid into a bag.
What happens after a bile stent procedure?
The stent will not be visible on an X-ray. You may feel a slight tugging or pressure when the stent is in place.
However, you should not have any pain or discomfort. You should feel no other discomfort from the stent.
You should not feel any pain when the drainage tube is inserted. You may be able to feel a slight tugging or pressure when the tube is being put into place.
You will probably be able to leave the hospital the same day as the procedure.
How do I care for a bile stent?
You may need to take some medicines while you are in the hospital following the procedure.
You will need to take the following medicines:
- Pain relievers
- Antibiotics to prevent infections
What are possible complications of a bile stent?
In rare cases, a bile stent may cause:
- Abdominal swelling
- Cholecystitis and cholangitis
- Pancreatic inflammation
In some cases, the bile duct may become blocked again.
If you develop any of these symptoms, your doctor will need to do further tests to diagnose the cause of the problem.
A blockage in your bile duct can cause jaundiced bile.
A blockage can cause jaundiced bile and can be caused by gallbladder stones, gallbladder inflammation, gallbladder infection, gallbladder carcinoma, gallbladder cirrhosis, or gallbladder polyps.
Some conditions that cause jaundiced bile can require surgery to remove the gallbladder.
A bile stent is a thin, flexible scope that is put into your bile duct. A cholangiogram is an X-ray test that shows the inside of your bile duct and helps your doctor see if there are blockages.
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