Everything you need to know about biliary atresia

Biliary atresia is a chronic and progressive liver problem. It becomes evident shortly after birth. The bile ducts are blocked and the bile can not leave the liver. Because of this, the liver is damaged and affects various vital functions.

If it's not treated, it's a life-threatening disease of the person who suffers. Let's learn more about it in this article.

What causes biliary atresia?

The cause of biliary atresia is not known with certainty. Many experts believe that babies are born with biliary atresia, which implies that the alteration of the bile ducts occurs during pregnancy.

But nevertheless, Other opinions suggest that the disease appears after birth, due to exposure to toxic or infectious substances. It is not linked to medications that the mother has taken or illnesses she has had during pregnancy.

Nowadays, it is unknown if there is a genetic link for biliary atresia. In general, the disease is not likely to recur more than once in a family.

What are the symptoms of biliary atresia?

Babies affected by biliary atresia often appear healthy at birth. However, Symptoms develop between two weeks and two months of life. The symptoms of biliary atresia may resemble other conditions or medical problems.

Between the symptoms that appear are included:

  • Jaundice: It is a yellow coloration of the skin and the white parts of the eyes. It occurs due to high and irregular levels of bilirubin in the blood that can be attributed to inflammation, other abnormalities of the liver cells or an obstruction of the bile ducts.
  • Dark urine and clear stools.
  • Swollen abdomen and weight loss.

Also read: Jaundice in babies: symptoms and treatment

Diagnosis of biliary atresia

To get to the diagnosis of the disease Different tests and blood tests are performed.

Blood test

In the blood analysis, the measurement of the following parameters:

  • Hepatic enzymes: Elevated levels of liver enzymes can alert you to liver damage or injury. However, when this happens, the enzymes pass into the blood.
  • Bilirubin: the bilirubin produced by the liver is excreted in the bile. High levels of bilirubin usually indicate an obstruction of the bile flow or a defect in the processing of bile by the liver.
  • Albumin and total protein: levels below normal are associated with chronic liver disorders.
  • Coagulation studies: Prothrombin time and partial prothrombin time are measured, which measure the time it takes blood to clot. Damage to the liver cells and obstruction of the bile flow can interfere with the blood clotting process.
  • Blood culture: with this it is verified if there is an infection in the blood produced by a bacterium that could affect the liver.

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Diagnostic imaging

The image tests that are usually used are:

  • Abdominal ultrasound: is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high frequency sound waves. However, ultrasound scans allow images of the state of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts to be obtained.
  • Hepatobiliary scintigraphy (HIDA): an isotope of low radiation in vein is injected. If the isotope passes from the liver to the intestine, the bile ducts open and it will be confirmed that there is no biliary atresia.
  • Liver biopsy: a sample of liver tissue is taken, which is then examined and used to distinguish biliary atresia from other liver problems.