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Biliary Atresia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is biliary atresia?

Biliary atresia is a disease that damages an infant's liver before or shortly after birth. Bile ducts carry bile from your baby's liver to his or her small intestines. Bile helps digest food. When your baby's bile ducts are damaged, bile is trapped in the liver. This can cause cirrhosis (scarring), swelling, and advance to liver failure. The cause of biliary atresia is not known. Biliary atresia can be life-threatening if not treated or if treatment is delayed.

What are the signs and symptoms of biliary atresia?

Your baby may appear normal at birth. Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) appears within the first 90 days of life. Your baby may also have any of the following symptoms:

How is biliary atresia diagnosed?

How is biliary atresia treated?

Surgery is done to bypass the damaged ducts and connect the liver to your baby's small intestine. This new duct allows bile to pass from the liver into the intestine. A liver transplant may be needed if the liver is severely damaged and does not work properly. Ask your baby's healthcare provider for more information about liver transplants.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my baby's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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