Bile Leak

Patient Education

What is a bile leak?
A bile leak is a hole in the bile-duct system that causes bile to spill into the abdominal cavity. Bile is a substance produced by the liver to help digest fat in the food you eat. The gallbladder stores bile and is a small, pear-shaped sac located below your liver in the right upper abdomen. In some people, bile in the gallbladder hardens and forms gallstones which may cause symptoms of indigestion, pain, and yellowing of the skin. The gallbladder may be surgically removed to treat symptoms related to gallstones and bile leaks occur in approximately 1 % of patients following gallbladder surgery.

What are the symptoms of a bile leak?
Symptoms of a bile leak include pain, fever, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), abdominal pain and distention.

How is a bile leak diagnosed?
Your doctor will review your medical and surgical history. If a bile leak is suspected, your doctor may order an abdominal ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, Biliary scan or an ERCP (endoscopic procedure used to evaluate the bile ducts).

How is a bile leak treated?
Bile leaks are usually treated by placing a temporary stent in the bile duct during an ERCP. During an ERCP your doctor places a thin, flexible tube down your esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small bowel to access the bile ducts. Your doctor will then place a stent to help improve the drainage of bile. Your doctor will also give you antibiotics to help prevent infections related to bile fluid that has leaked into your abdominal cavity.  Occasionally, surgery may be needed.

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Biliary