Biliary Atresia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Biliary Atresia is a rare disease that affects one in 10,000 infants. It is a major reason for liver transplants in infants in the USA. This disease damages the liver by injuring the bile ducts responsible for draining out the bile from the liver. Bile is produced by the liver. It reaches intestines through the bile ducts. Bile helps in the digestion of food in the intestines. Once the ducts are injured the bile remains in the liver. This can damage the liver and cause loss and scarring of the tissues of the liver. This will eventually lead to liver cirrhosis.

Symptoms of Biliary Atresia

The first symptom of biliary atresia is jaundice. The signs that one is suffering from jaundice are:

  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Light-coloured stools

Causes of biliary atresia

The exact causes of biliary atresia are still unknown. However, the following reasons might trigger the disease:

  • Disorder in the immune system of the body
  • Abnormality in the bile component
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Problem in the development of the bile ducts and liver

Diagnosis of biliary atresia

Biliary atresia is detected through:


After the initial examination of the baby’s abdomen blood test, urine test and stool test are carried out.


Ultrasound of the liver and abdomen will give a complete picture of the liver and bile ducts.

Liver scan:

The special X-ray of the liver will detect the blockage of the bile flow.

Liver biopsy:

A small piece of liver tissue is taken out of the child’s liver and examined in the laboratory. This can also detect any other liver problem besides biliary atresia.

Treatment for biliary atresia

The disease is usually treated in the following ways:


If biliary atresia causes jaundice in the infant then surgery is recommended. During the surgery, the bile duct and liver are examined.

Kasai procedure:

In Kasai procedure the bile ducts are replaced by a loop of intestine. This way the bile directly flows into the intestines, draining out of the liver.

Liver transplant:

Liver transplant is the last resort for children suffering from fatal form of biliary atresia.

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