Biliary obstruction occurs when the duct which transports bile from the liver to the small intestine (duodenum) is blocked by a stone, a tumor, an injury or inflammation of any of the ducts. A tumor in the pancreas may press in on the ducts, causing a backup of bile in the gallbladder. Blood tests may indicate a high level of bilirubin, a waste product of the liver, or diagnosis may come from an endoscopic examination. Untreated biliary obstruction may cause life-threatening infection or chronic liver disease.
Review Date 8/1/2015
Updated by: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.