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NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center - Center for Advanced Digestive Care

Obstructive Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellow color of the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow coloring comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Obstructive jaundice is a specific type of jaundice, where symptoms develop due to a narrowed or blocked bile duct or pancreatic duct, preventing the normal drainage of bile from teh bloodstream into the intestines.

Specialists at the Center for Advanced Digestive Care (CADC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center are experienced in diagnosing and treating the causes of obstructive jaundice. Our Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation uses a multidisciplinary approach and tailor treatment to the needs of each patient.

What Causes Obstructive Jaundice?

Obstructive jaundice may be due to a number of causes, all of which narrow or block the bile ducts in some way:

  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatic cancer, when it occurs near the tube connecting the pancreas to the instestines
  • Swelling of lymph glands near the bile duct
  • Pancreatic cysts
  • Other pancreatic duct obstructions such as scarring

What Causes Obstructive Jaundice?

Because obstructive jaundice has high mortality rates, early detection, diagnosis and treatment is essential. The following tests may be performed by our specialists to diagnose the cause of obstructive jaundice:

Treatment of Obstructive Jaundice

The treatment of obstructive jaundice depends on its cause. Clogged or narrowed bile or pancreatic ducts may be relieved by inserting a stent using ERCP. The CADC's interventional endoscopy specialists are experts in performing ERCP, EUS, EUS-guided ERCP, and other EUS-guided procedures.

Bile duct cancer can be treated with photodynamic therapy (PDT) or radiofrequency ablation (RFA) before placing a stent, while pancreatic cancer can be treated by RFA and stenting. Cancers causing obstruction may require more extensive surgery by the CADC's hepatobiliary surgical team. Some patients receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in combination with their surgical or endoscopic procedure.

At the CADC and the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, specialists in gastrointerology, hepatology, endoscopy, radiology, and surgery work together as an interdisciplinary team to provide each patient with coordinated, advanced, and individualized care.