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Biliary Atresia

A life-threatening condition in infants in which the bile ducts inside or outside the liver do not have normal openings.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Biliary Atresia

Biliary atresia is a life-threatening condition in infants in which the bile ducts inside or outside the liver do not have normal openings.

Bile ducts in the liver, also called hepatic ducts, are tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder for storage and to the small intestine for use in digestion. Bile is a fluid made by the liver that serves two main functions: carrying toxins and waste products out of the body and helping the body digest fats and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

With biliary atresia, bile becomes trapped, builds up, and damages the liver. The damage leads to scarring, loss of liver tissue, and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a chronic, or long lasting, liver condition caused by scar tissue and cell damage that makes it hard for the liver to remove toxins from the blood. These toxins build up in the blood and the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions. Without treatment, the liver eventually fails and the infant needs a liver transplant to stay alive....Read more about Biliary Atresia NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Does adjuvant steroid therapy post-Kasai portoenterostomy improve the outcome of biliary atresia? A systematic review and meta-analysis

This review found steroids were ineffective in improving outcomes after intestinal surgery to allow bile duct drainage (Kasai portoenterostomy) in infants; further research was recommended. The conclusion on steroid ineffectiveness should be approached with caution due to review methodological issues. However, the authors' recommendation for further research appears appropriate given small size and limitations of the available included evidence.

Cirrhosis in Over 16s: Assessment and Management

The guideline covers the identification and assessment of suspected cirrhosis, monitoring to detect complications and management of complications such as ascites and hepatorenal syndrome and referral for tertiary care.

Neonatal Jaundice

Jaundice is one of the most common conditions requiring medical attention in newborn babies. Approximately 60% of term and 80% of preterm babies develop jaundice in the first week of life, and about 10% of breastfed babies are still jaundiced at 1 month of age. In most babies with jaundice thevre is no underlying disease, and this early jaundice (termed ‘physiological jaundice’) is generally harmless. However, there are pathological causes of jaundice in the newborn, which, although rare, need to be detected. Such pathological jaundice may co-exist with physiological jaundice.

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Terms to know

Bile Ducts
Tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder for storage and to the small intestine for use in digestion.
Cirrhosis
Scarring and permanent injury to the liver, usually the result of chronic, long term damage.
Congenital
Present since birth.
Hepatic
Related to the liver.
Jaundice
A condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes become yellow, urine darkens, and the color of stool becomes lighter than normal. Jaundice occurs when the liver is not working properly or when a bile duct is blocked.
Liver
The largest abdominal organ. The liver carries out many important functions, such as making important blood proteins and bile, changing food into energy, and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood.
Liver Biopsy
A liver biopsy is a procedure that involves taking a small piece of liver tissue for examination with a microscope for signs of damage or disease.

More about Biliary Atresia

Photo of a baby

Also called: Atresia of bile ducts, Congenital biliary atresia

See Also: Liver Transplantation

Other terms to know: See all 7
Bile Ducts, Cirrhosis, Congenital

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