URL of this page: //medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000220.htm

Bile duct stricture

A bile duct stricture is an abnormal narrowing of the common bile duct, the tube that moves bile from the liver to the small intestine. Bile is a substance that helps with digestion.


A bile duct stricture is often caused by injury to the bile ducts during surgery. For example, it may occur after surgery to remove the gallbladder.

Other causes of this condition include:


Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

The following tests can help diagnose this condition:

The following blood tests can help reveal a problem with the biliary system.

This condition may also alter the results of the following tests:


The goal of treatment is to correct the narrowing so bile can flow from the liver into the intestine.

This may involve:

  • Surgery
  • Endoscopic or percutaneous dilation

If surgery is done, the stricture is removed. The common bile duct will be rejoined with the small intestine.

In some cases, a tiny metal or plastic mesh tube (stent) is placed across the bile duct stricture to keep it open.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Treatment is successful most of the time. Long-term success depends on the cause of the stricture.

Possible Complications

Inflammation and narrowing of the biliary duct may return in some people. There is a risk for infection above the narrowed area. Strictures that remain for a long period can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis).

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if symptoms recur after pancreatitis, cholecystectomy, or other biliary surgery.

Alternative Names

Bile duct stricture; Biliary stricture



Anstee QM, Jones DEJ. Liver and biliary tract disease. In: Walker BR, Colledge NR, Ralston SH, Penman ID, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 23.

Fogel EL, Sherman S. Diseases of the gallbladder and liver. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 155.

Review Date 5/11/2016

Updated by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Related MedlinePlus Health Topics