Biliary Drainage In some patients, hepatobiliary cancers may cause the bile duct to become obstructed. A blocked bile duct can cause jaundice, itching of the skin, nausea, vomiting, and fever. If this obstruction cannot be relieved through surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, biliary drainage procedures are often used. These procedures are used to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life; they are not curative. Biliary drainage is typically used when a patient cannot be treated in any other way, or if an obstruction is not resolved by other cancer therapies.
There are three non-surgical biliary drainage procedures. In the first, an external biliary drainage catheter is passed through the skin and into the bile ducts within the liver. This allows the bile to flow through the tube and drain into an external collecting bag.
The second drainage procedure uses an internal/external biliary catheter. This tube passes through the skin into the bile ducts within the liver and is guided across the obstruction and into the duodenum--the first part of the small intestine. The bile can then flow from the liver to the duodenum through the catheter, bypassing the obstruction. In most cases, an internal/external catheter is preferable, but it is not always possible.
These procedures require changing the catheter approximately every 2-3 months, a relatively simple outpatient procedure. With the help of nurses, physicians, and patient-education materials, patients also learn how to care for their catheters.
A third drainage procedure involves the use of a wall stent. This metallic mesh device is put into the bile duct to hold it open, allowing the bile to flow freely. Our team of doctors can discuss drainage options with a patient.
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