Biliary Atresia (BA)
What is biliary atresia?
Biliary atresia is a disease of the bile ducts that affects only infants. Bile is a digestive liquid that is made in
the liver. It travels through the bile ducts to the small intestine, where it helps digest fats.
In biliary atresia, the bile ducts become inflamed and blocked soon after birth. This causes bile to remain in
the liver, where it starts to destroy liver cells rapidly and cause cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.
What causes biliary atresia?
The cause of this disease is not known. In some infants, the condition is most likely congenital, meaning
present from birth. About one in 10 babies with biliary atresia have other congenital defects. Some research
indicates that an early viral infection may be linked to biliary atresia.
Scientists do know that biliary atresia is not hereditary; parents do not pass it on to their child. It is also not
contagious, and it is not preventable. It is also not caused by anything an expectant mother did or did not do.
What are the symptoms of biliary atresia?
Symptoms of biliary atresia usually appear between two and six weeks after birth. The baby will appear
jaundiced, with yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. The liver may harden and the abdomen may
become swollen. Stools appear pale grey and the urine may appear dark. Some babies may develop
How is biliary atresia diagnosed?
Since other conditions lead to symptoms similar to those of biliary atresia, doctors must perform many tests
before a conclusive diagnosis can be made. These tests may include blood and liver tests, an ultrasound
examination, X-rays and a liver biopsy, in which a small amount of liver tissue is removed with a needle for
examination in a laboratory.
How is biliary atresia treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for biliary atresia. The only treatment is a surgical procedure in which the
blocked bile ducts outside the liver are replaced with a length of the baby’s own intestine, which acts as a