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Biliary atresia (say "BILL-ee-air-ee uh-TREE-zhuh") is a liver disease in newborn babies. It is a problem with the bile ducts, which may be blocked or missing. The bile ducts are the tubes that connect the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine.
Normally, the liver produces bile that is stored in the gallbladder and released into the intestine to help digest fat. But when the bile ducts are blocked or missing, the bile stays in the liver and builds up. This causes scarring and harms the liver. The liver isn't able to work well and can fail. If the liver fails, the baby will need a liver transplant.
Experts don't know what causes biliary atresia. It isn't inherited, so it isn't passed down to children.
Biliary atresia is a serious problem. It must be treated right away.
The main symptom of biliary atresia is jaundice. This makes the baby's skin and the whites of the eyes look yellow. The baby may also have dark urine and light-coloured stools.
A number of tests will be done to see if the baby has biliary atresia. The baby's blood, urine, and stool will be tested. The doctor will also do ultrasound tests of the liver and belly. The baby may need a liver biopsy. In a biopsy, the doctor uses a needle to take a small piece of the liver. The piece of the liver is then checked for the disease.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Merchant MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
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