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 5/4/2022
Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.