What is Biliary Drainage?

Biliary drainage

is a rarely used surgical or diagnostic procedure where blocked bile in the liver is drained manually. Bile which is produced by the liver is essential for the digestion of fats. The bile which is produced in the liver can be blocked in there if the bile ducts (through which the fluid passes out of the liver) were to get blocked.

Biliary Drainage:

In patients who develop stones in the gallbladder, inflammation of the bile ducts or bile duct cancer, blockage of bile in the liver is a possibility. Accumulation of the fluid in the liver would not allow toxic wastes to be filtered endangering a patient’s life.

Thus, doctors would have to use a tube (catheter) which is inserted into the bile duct through the ribs with the help of a needle and a wire for draining the fluid. This procedure is usually performed by an interventional radiologist.

Diagnosis and Symptoms:

People who have their bile ducts blocked can present with the following symptoms-

  • skin and eyes would turn yellow
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • discolored stools and yellowish urines
  • severe itching

Apart from these common symptoms, patients can also tear their bile ducts causing bile to leak and cause infections and pain.

Also, these symptoms can mean that the patient might have developed gallstones which is the actual reason for the blockage.

Doctors can make use of imaging techniques like the X-rays, CT scan and MRI scan to spot the blocked region.


After draining the the accumulated bile from the liver, patients are bound to experience a relief from the previously existing symptoms. Also, the issue of blockage can be completely resolved in a few cases.

In patients who suffer from bile duct cancer, this manual drainage technique can provide some relief, though not an entire cure.


The risks associated with

biliary drainage

are minimal and rarely threatening. The two most common complications of this procedure are infection and bleeding. Also, the catheter would remain in position until the doctor can consider removing it, so one should be careful in handling it.

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