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 may be surgically removed to treat symptoms related to gallstones. 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 imaging studies 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. Your doctor will then place a stent to help improve the drainage of bile. Your doctor may 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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