A biliary obstruction is a serious condition. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. In order to understand why, you must first understand what a bile duct is and how it functions.
Bile is essential to digestion. A green or yellow-brown fluid secreted by your liver, stored in your gallbladder, and released into your small intestine, its job is to digest and absorb fats, as well as to flush waste products from your system.
Serious problems can occur when the liver is unable to produce bile, or when the tubes that transport it become blocked. Diseases of the bile duct include everything from cancer to PBC (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis), a possible autoimmune disorder that causes the gradual destruction of the liver and bile ducts.
A number of conditions can cause a bile duct blockage. They include:
Gallbladder Stones – The most common culprits are gallstones, small pieces of cholesterol or bile that form in the gallbladder. Typically benign and asymptomatic, they can sometimes cause painful obstructions that require immediate removal.
Bile Duct Stones – Most gallstones are small enough to pass through the bile ducts without causing problems. In some instances, they can get stuck, creating an obstruction within the bile duct itself.
Bile Duct Cancer – A rare but serious condition, cancer of the bile duct can also lead to blockage. Cancer cells can appear anywhere within the biliary system, but often they form:
Surgery is the standard treatment for a blocked bile duct. Doctors typically advise patients with painful gallstones to seek immediate treatment. That’s because a blockage can cause a dangerous infection or a buildup of bilirubin that eventually leads to chronic liver disease. More often than not, surgeons will perform a cholecystectomy—a procedure which involves the removal of the gallbladder.
Surgery may also be an option for patients who suffer from cancer, as long as they have a reasonable chance of recovering from the operation. Surgery may involve a widening of the duct or even removal of some or part of the surrounding organs.
That being said, some complications can be dangerous. When the intestines get trapped inside a hernia, it’s called strangulation, and it could lead to loss of blood supply to the area. To prevent the possibility of strangulation, doctors recommend hernia surgery for most patients. The question usually isn’t if a patient needs surgery, but when. Some can wait. Others can’t.
Most surgeries are relatively safe, particularly when performed using minimally invasive techniques. That being said, there are risks. They include:
Surgery to treat cancer can be more serious, depending on how far it has progressed and how much of the surrounding organs need to be removed.
Surgery Group LA uses state-of-the-art surgical techniques to treat biliary disorders. Our multi-disciplinary team of surgeons provide expert, personalized care to each of our patients. Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians. We’ll discuss your condition and do what we can to create a customized treatment plan that fits your needs and comfort level.
People may experience pain or discomfort in the affected area, particularly when lifting, bending, or coughing. Hernia pain is somewhat common but not universal; often a bulge appears without any unwanted sensations. Signs of strangulation include nausea, vomiting, and the sudden onset of pain. Anyone who feels these symptoms should call a doctor and discuss their option
More importantly, our team of world-renowned surgeons have saved countless lives, and have enabled countless more to live healthy, happy lives.