Cancer can block the bile ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the small intestine to help digest fats. However, there are several types of noncancerous bile duct disorders that can also cause problems. Examples of noncancerous bile duct disorders include:
- Cholangitis (infection of the bile duct)
- Bile duct leaks, which can occur after certain surgeries and cause infection
- Biliary stricture (an abnormal narrowing of the bile duct)
- Biliary stones (choledocholithiasis, the presence of a gallstone in the common bile duct)
- Biliary changes after liver transplant (such as bile leaks or narrowing)
The diagnosis and treatment of bile duct disorders is best handled by a team of experts. The specialists at the Center for Advanced Digestive Care (CADC) of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center have extensive experience treating bile duct disorders, including the use of advanced endoscopic approaches to relieve obstructed ducts and improve patients' quality of life.
Symptoms of Bile Duct Disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itchy skin
Diagnosis of Bile Duct Disorders
- Imaging tests, such as CT scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): EUS involves the use of a special endoscope with high-energy sound waves ("echoendoscope") to visualize the digestive tract and nearby organs.
- Probe-based confocal endomicroscopy: The CADC is one of few centers offering this highly specialized approach, which involves the use of a small microscope to evaluate narrowing in the bile ducts.
- Narrow band imaging: With this endoscopic technique, doctors use a special system to capture high-resolution images of the bile ducts without the use of dyes. NBI relies on the fact that light of different wavelengths penetrates tissue at different depths. The longer the wavelength, the deeper the tissue penetration. Blue light penetrates superficially, while red light penetrates more deeply. By using light of different wavelengths, doctors can see fine features of the lining (mucosa) of the bile ducts.