Bile ducts are narrow tubes that facilitate the drainage of digestive fluid through the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine. When these ducts become blocked for any reason, a person may experience pain and other symptoms, such as jaundice, itchy skin and pale-colored stools. Treatment often involves surgery, either to further explore, resection or remove the affected duct.
Did you know…
that many bile duct surgeries are accompanied by other procedures? For example, a person with gallstones blocking the bile duct may require gallbladder removal. Those with liver or pancreatic cancers may require resectioning of multiple organs, including the pancreas, part of the stomach, the gallbladder and the bile ducts. Cancer that begins in the bile duct is not common, but it does affect approximately 20,000 people in the U.S. every year.
There are several types of bile duct surgeries, including bile duct exploration, bile duct bypass and bile duct removal. A bile duct exploration can be used to identify gallstones trapped inside the bile duct, as well as to determine how far cancer has spread within the bile duct. A bile duct bypass is a treatment used for individuals with narrowed bile ducts that do not allow for proper bile drainage into the intestine. Bile ducts may be removed completely as part of a larger operation – usually for the purpose of treating malignancy.
There are several conditions that can cause bile duct blockages. Examples include gallstones, injury, scar tissue, tumors, anatomical deformities and liver disorders. Some blockages may be treated with bile duct removal, whereas larger ones require a biliary bypass to create a new pathway for bile to drain around the obstruction.
An entire bile duct may be removed when small tumors are isolated to the bile duct and have not spread. In this case, the duct and surrounding lymph nodes are removed and a new duct is formed by directly connecting the ends of the liver and small intestine.