Biliary atresia is a rare disease that can affect babies soon after birth. This disease destroys the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. Bile is a fluid that helps the body digest fats. It is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. If the ducts cannot carry bile, the liver gets damaged and stops working. If this disease is not treated, children may not live longer than 2 years.
The cause of biliary atresia is not known. It is not contagious, so it cannot be passed from one child to another. Some possible causes may be:
Symptoms may include:
Several tests may be done to make a diagnosis:
Biliary atresia is usually diagnosed during the first 2 months of life.
Treatment is needed to get the bile flowing through the ducts. The most common treatment is an operation called the Kasai procedure. During this surgery, the damaged ducts are removed and replaced with a piece of the baby's intestine. The new ducts allow bile to drain from the liver into the intestine.
Babies usually stay in the hospital for 7 to 10 days after the surgery. The baby will be given antibiotic medicine to lower the risk of infection and other medicine to keep fluid from building up in the belly.
Sometimes the baby will need a liver transplant. Almost all children who have biliary atresia will need to have a liver transplant before they are 20 years old.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.