Biliary Atresia | Disease | Continental Hospitals

Biliary Atresia

Biliary atresia is a congenital disorder that affects the bile ducts in infants. It occurs when the bile ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the small intestine, are either absent or blocked. This obstruction prevents the normal flow of bile, leading to its accumulation in the liver and causing damage over time. This condition primarily affects newborns and is considered one of the leading causes of neonatal cholestasis, a condition characterized by jaundice and abnormal liver function tests. While its exact cause remains unknown, researchers believe that both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to its development. Early detection and prompt intervention are crucial for managing biliary atresia effectively. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and even death.

Biliary Artesia

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Biliary atresia, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Gastroenterologist.


Biliary atresia is a rare but serious liver condition that affects infants. It occurs when the bile ducts, which are responsible for carrying bile from the liver to the small intestine, become blocked or absent. While the exact cause of biliary atresia is still unknown, researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to its development. One potential cause of biliary atresia is a malfunction in the immune system. It is believed that an abnormal immune response may trigger inflammation and damage to the bile ducts, leading to their obstruction. Genetic factors may also play a role, as certain genes have been found to be associated with an increased risk of developing this condition. Furthermore, some studies suggest that viral infections during pregnancy or shortly after birth could potentially contribute to the development of biliary atresia. Maternal exposure to certain viruses, such as cytomegalovirus or Epstein-Barr virus, has been linked to an increased risk in some cases. It's important to note that while these factors may increase the likelihood of developing biliary atresia, they do not guarantee its occurrence. The exact interplay between these factors and how they lead to bile duct abnormalities requires further research. Understanding the potential causes of biliary atresia is crucial for early detection and intervention.

Risk Factors

Understanding the risk factors associated with biliary atresia is crucial in identifying and managing this rare pediatric liver disease. While the exact cause of biliary atresia remains unknown, research has identified several potential risk factors that may contribute to its development. One significant risk factor is genetic predisposition. Studies have shown that individuals with a family history of biliary atresia are at a higher risk of developing the condition themselves. This suggests a possible genetic component that may play a role in its occurrence. Another important risk factor is maternal age. Research has found that infants born to older mothers, particularly those over the age of 35, have an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with biliary atresia. The reasons behind this association are still being explored, but it highlights the importance of considering maternal age as a potential risk factor. Additionally, certain infections during pregnancy have been linked to an elevated risk of biliary atresia in newborns. Viral infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and rubella have been identified as potential culprits. It is believed that these infections may trigger an abnormal immune response or interfere with normal bile duct development in utero. It is important to note that while these risk factors may increase the chances of developing biliary atresia, they do not guarantee its occurrence. Many cases still occur without any identifiable risk factors present.


One of the key symptoms of biliary atresia is jaundice, which causes the skin and eyes to appear yellowish. This occurs due to a buildup of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced by the liver. Infants with biliary atresia may also have dark urine and pale stools as a result of impaired bile flow. In addition to jaundice, other symptoms may include poor weight gain or failure to thrive, abdominal swelling or distension, and persistent itching. These signs can vary in severity from mild to severe, depending on the extent of bile duct damage. It is important to note that while these symptoms are indicative of biliary atresia, they can also be associated with other conditions. Therefore, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to seek medical advice if they observe any concerning signs in their child's health. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital in managing biliary atresia effectively. Timely intervention can help improve outcomes and potentially prevent further complications such as liver damage or cirrhosis. If you notice any symptoms mentioned above in your child, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance. Remember, being aware of the symptoms plays a significant role in ensuring timely medical attention for infants with biliary atresia.

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Diagnosing biliary atresia involves a combination of clinical evaluation, imaging tests, and laboratory investigations. The initial step often begins with a thorough physical examination to assess the baby's overall health and look for any signs of jaundice or liver enlargement. Further diagnostic tests may include ultrasound imaging, which can help visualize the bile ducts and identify any abnormalities or blockages. Additionally, a hepatobiliary scintigraphy or HIDA scan may be performed to evaluate the function of the liver and detect any bile flow issues. Blood tests are also an integral part of the diagnostic process. These tests can measure specific liver enzymes and bilirubin levels, providing valuable information about liver function and potential obstructions in the bile ducts. In some cases, a liver biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. This procedure involves obtaining a small sample of liver tissue for microscopic analysis, allowing healthcare professionals to assess the extent of damage or inflammation within the organ. It is important to note that diagnosing biliary atresia can be challenging due to its similarity with other conditions presenting with neonatal jaundice. Therefore, it requires expertise from pediatric specialists experienced in managing pediatric liver diseases.


The primary treatment option for biliary atresia is surgery, specifically the Kasai procedure. This surgical intervention involves removing the damaged bile ducts and connecting the liver directly to the small intestine, allowing bile to flow freely. The Kasai procedure aims to restore bile flow and prevent further liver damage. However, it's important to note that not all cases of biliary atresia can be successfully treated with surgery alone. In some instances, a liver transplant may be required if significant liver damage has occurred or if the Kasai procedure was unsuccessful in restoring normal bile flow. In addition to surgical interventions, other treatments may also be employed to manage symptoms and support overall liver health. These may include medications such as ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) to promote bile flow and reduce inflammation in the liver. Also, ongoing medical management and follow-up care are essential for individuals with biliary atresia. Regular monitoring of liver function, nutritional support, and close collaboration between healthcare providers are vital components in ensuring optimal outcomes for patients.

Preventive Measures

By understanding the potential risk factors and implementing preventive measures, we can take significant steps towards reducing the occurrence of this condition. One key aspect of prevention involves raising awareness among parents and healthcare professionals about the early signs and symptoms of biliary atresia. Timely detection plays a vital role in ensuring prompt medical intervention and improving outcomes for affected infants. Additionally, promoting prenatal care and regular check-ups during pregnancy can contribute to early detection and management of any potential issues related to biliary atresia. This emphasizes the importance of comprehensive prenatal screening programs that include thorough examinations of the fetal liver. Furthermore, encouraging breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of biliary atresia. Breast milk provides essential nutrients and antibodies that support optimal growth and development, potentially offering protective effects against various diseases. Educating parents on proper hygiene practices, including handwashing techniques, can also help minimize exposure to infectious agents that may contribute to liver damage in infants.

Do's & Don’t's

When it comes to managing biliary atresia, there are certain do's and don'ts that can make a significant difference in the overall well-being of the patient. By following these guidelines, both patients and their caregivers can ensure the best possible outcomes for this challenging condition. 

Do's Don't
Follow a specialized diet prescribed by your healthcare provider, typically low in fat and high in nutrients. Avoid high-fat foods that may exacerbate liver issues.
Take medications as prescribed by your doctor to manage symptoms and support liver function. Do not take any medications or supplements without consulting your healthcare provider first.
Attend regular medical check-ups and follow-ups with specialists to monitor liver health. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, as they can further damage the liver.
Maintain good hygiene to prevent infections, as the immune system might be compromised. Don't skip prescribed vaccinations or medical appointments.
Stay physically active within the limits recommended by your healthcare provider. Avoid contact sports or activities that may risk abdominal injuries.
Seek emotional and social support, including counseling or support groups, if needed. Don't ignore signs of complications or changes in health. Always report any concerning symptoms to your healthcare provider.

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Biliary atresia, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Gastroenterologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
Biliary atresia is a rare and serious liver disease that affects infants. It is characterized by the absence or underdevelopment of the bile ducts, which are responsible for carrying bile from the liver to the small intestine.
The exact cause of biliary atresia is unknown. It is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that lead to the abnormal development of the bile ducts in utero.
Biliary atresia disrupts the normal flow of bile from the liver, leading to a buildup of bile within the liver and eventually causing liver damage and scarring (cirrhosis). This can result in jaundice, poor growth, nutritional deficiencies, and other complications.
Biliary atresia is typically diagnosed shortly after birth when an infant exhibits signs of jaundice that persist beyond two weeks of age. Additional tests such as blood work, imaging studies (ultrasound, MRI), and a liver biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
The main treatment for biliary atresia is surgery called Kasai procedure or hepatoportoenterostomy. This surgical procedure aims to restore bile flow by creating an alternative pathway for bile drainage from the liver into the small intestine. In some cases where Kasai procedure fails or if cirrhosis develops, a liver transplant may be necessary.
The prognosis for children with biliary atresia depends on various factors, including the age at which the condition is diagnosed and treated, the success of surgical interventions, and the overall health of the child. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment offer the best chance for a positive outcome."
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