Biliary obstruction occurs when the duct which transports bile from the liver to the small intestine (duodenum) is blocked by a stone, a tumor, an injury or inflammation of any of the ducts. A tumor in the pancreas may press in on the ducts, causing a backup of bile in the gallbladder. Blood tests may indicate a high level of bilirubin, a waste product of the liver, or diagnosis may come from an endoscopic examination. Untreated biliary obstruction may cause life-threatening infection or chronic liver disease.
Update Date 8/24/2011
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.