Biliary atresia is a blockage of bile ducts in infants. Bile ducts are tubes that pass a fluid called bile from the liver to the gallbladder.
Bile helps with digestion. It also carries waste and toxins out of the body. When bile cannot pass out of the liver, it builds up and damages the liver.
Biliary atresia is a rare, life-threatening condition.
The cause of biliary atresia is not clear. For some, the ducts do not form properly and are closed off. A blockage may also develop from swelling of the ducts. This may happen before or after birth. The swelling may be due to:
An infection after birth—due to a virus or bacteria
A problem with the immune system
Exposure to toxic substances
Biliary atresia is more common in female infants, but it also occurs in males. It is also more common in premature infants and children from Asian and Pacific regions.
Changes in certain genes may play a role in this condition.
Most symptoms of biliary atresia appear in the first 2 to 4 weeks of life. A few symptoms may not occur for 3 months or longer. Symptoms may be:
Biliary atresia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/biliary-atresia. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Biliary atresia. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/biliary-atresia#2. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Matsui A. Screening for biliary atresia. Pediatr Surg Int. 2017;33(12):1305-1313.
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