Blocked bile duct

Treatment for bile duct obstructions

Bile duct strictures are blockages in the bile ducts. HCA UK's specialists explain how these are treated

About a blocked bile duct

The bile ducts form part of the digestive system. They carry bile, a substance that digests fat, from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. Strictures occur when there is a narrowing of the bile ducts, causing a blockage. They are generally found in the main bile duct and may lead to jaundice (yellowing skin).

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    The main treatment for bile duct strictures is an endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatogram (ERCP). During an ERCP, a tiny camera on the end of a narrow, flexible tube (an endoscope) is passed through the mouth and into the small intestine to see the bile ducts. Images are fed back to a computer for a consultant to analyse. A short metal or plastic tube (stent) is then put in place to open the narrow bile ducts.

    We make sure you’re fully informed of what to expect before and after surgery, with specialist nurses to support you during recovery.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    You’ll be given a local anaesthetic to help you feel drowsy and relaxed during the procedure, but it won’t put you to sleep. You may also be given an oral antibiotic about an hour before.

    You’ll need to avoid eating or drinking for six hours before the procedure so that your consultant can see clear images through the camera.

    Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you and answer any questions you might have.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    The procedure is relatively straightforward and usually takes around 30-40 minutes. You will generally be able to go home on the same day.

    Afterwards, you may have some discomfort in the abdomen (tummy) and some people also experience a sore throat. This should only last for a few days and simple pain killers, such as paracetamol, should help.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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