Bile duct obstruction is a blockage in the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine.
Bile is a liquid released by the liver. It contains cholesterol, bile salts, and waste products such as bilirubin. Bile salts help your body break down (digest) fats. Bile passes out of the liver through the bile ducts and is stored in the gallbladder. After a meal, it is released into the small intestine.
When the bile ducts become blocked, bile builds up in the liver, and jaundice (yellow color of the skin) develops due to the increasing level of bilirubin in the blood.
The possible causes of a blocked bile duct include:
- Cysts of the common bile duct
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the porta hepatis
- Inflammation of the bile ducts
- Narrowing of the bile ducts from scarring
- Injury from gallbladder surgery
- Tumors of the bile ducts or pancreas
- Tumors that have spread to the biliary system
- Liver and bile duct worms (flukes)
The risk factors include:
- History of gallstones, chronic pancreatitis, or pancreatic cancer
- Injury to the abdominal area
- Recent biliary surgery
- Recent biliary cancer (such as bile duct cancer)
- The blockage can also be caused by infections. This is more common in people with weakened immune systems.