Biliary atresia is a blockage in the tubes (ducts) that carry bile (a digestive liquid that helps break down fats) from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. Babies with biliary atresia are born with underdeveloped or blocked bile ducts. This means that bile from the liver is unable to reach the intestine, where it normally works to help digest food. Without treatment, bile builds up, causing injury to the liver, and develops into liver failure within the first two years of life.
Biliary atresia is a congenital condition, which means it is present from birth.
Newborns with this condition may appear normal. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) develops by the second or third week of life. The infant may gain weight normally for the first few weeks. Other symptoms include:
If your child’s symptoms lead the pediatric gastroenterologist to suspect biliary atresia, he or she will perform a physical exam, which includes feeling your child's abdomen (stomach). Additional tests will be performed to help make a diagnosis and rule out other possible problems, including:
A multidisciplinary approach is used to manage and treat biliary atresia, including surgery and special nutrition. Treatments include:
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about biliary atresia.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This website provides education and support resources for patients and families living with biliary atresia.
The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition provides patient outreach and education for children and families living with biliary atresia.
The Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition Department at Riley at IU Health participates in the Childhood Liver Disease Research Network, a multicenter research network that investigates childhood liver conditions, including biliary atresia. Talk to your child’s doctor if you want to know more about this research or if you have questions about your child participating in one of these studies.
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