Bile ducts are tubes that primarily carry bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine to help digest fats.
Several diseases in the bile ducts can prevent proper bile duct functioning. Read along to find out more.
Bile duct disease
There are several bile duct diseases that can occur. Gallstones are one common issue for bile ducts. These form when deposits of digestive fluid harden in the gallbladder. They can cause inflammation, increasing pressure in the gallbladder and potentially blocking a bile duct. Another common bile duct condition is cholangitis, which is inflammation in the bile duct system. This is often caused by a bacterial infection.
Bile ducts can also have strictures (narrowing). In other cases, they can leak. Cancer can also occur in the bile ducts. Bile duct cancer is rare and aggressive. Additionally, some infants are born with a condition called biliary atresia, in which bile ducts are scarred and blocked. This causes a buildup of bile in the liver and can damage it.
Symptoms of Bile Duct Diseases
Bile duct diseases tend to have some of a group of symptoms. These include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, itchy skin, fever, chills, weight loss, loss of appetite, and jaundice. Pain may occur in the upper abdomen and radiate to the back in some cases. Depending on the disease, these symptoms can be at differing levels of severity and present in varied ways. The progression the disease also influences the severity and types of symptoms.
Doctors diagnose bile duct diseases in a few different ways. Bilirubin blood testing can identify high levels of bilirubin in your bloodstream and can diagnose jaundice. Doctors can perform an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) to diagnose diseases. In an ERCP, they can inject contrast dye to help image your bile ducts during an x-ray. They can also perform an Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) to examine your bile ducts and make a diagnosis.
Treatments vary depending on the type of bile duct disease. ERCP, in addition to helping with diagnosis, can help treat disease. Doctors can pass tools through the endoscope during an ERCP and open blocked ducts, remove or break up gallstones, insert stents, and even remove tumors. Doctors can also help drain bile during an EUS by inserting a stent to help drain into the small intestine or stomach. One other emerging treatment involves using Radiofrequency Ablation for palliative care to treat the symptoms of bile duct cancer. This can be a way to manage pain for long-term cases of cancer.
Surgery may also be necessary in some cases. For example, with patients who have bile duct cancer, surgery can help to remove tumors. If tumors are very large, doctors may need to remove the liver and perform a liver transplant.
Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating conditions including bile duct diseases. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.