General Article

The Condition of Biliary Atresia

The Condition of Biliary Atresia

Biliary atresia is a rare condition that is only seen in infants and is typically diagnosed within two to six weeks after birth. While the reason this condition develops is unknown, it causes the abnormal development of the bile ducts within or outside of the liver creating a blockage.

The normal function of these bile ducts is to carry the bile – a digestive liquid that is produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of fat – to the gall bladder. When these bile ducts are blocked, it causes bile to become backed up into the liver which quickly begins to destroy the cells creating scar tissue and irreversible damage.

The Symptoms Caused by Biliary Atresia

The symptoms of biliary atresai may not be present at birth; however, they typically begin to appear within two to six weeks after with the first noticeable symptom being jaundice which is a yellowing of the skin and/or eyes.

It is possible for the infant to gain weight at a normal rate during the first month of life, but will then begin to lose this weight while becoming irritable as well as experiencing a worsening in their symptom of jaundice.

Another symptom of biliary atresia may be noticed in the stools which will be similar to the color of clay (grayish) or pale, have a strong foul odor, or floating stools. Other symptoms include an enlarged spleen, dark colored urine, and either a slow weight gain or no weight gain at all.

The Kasai Procedure

The Kasai procedure was developed in the early 1950s by “Dr. Morio Kasai” and is commonly used in the treatment of biliary atresai. This surgical procedure involves the removal of the bile ducts that are located on the outside of the liver and replace them with a piece of the infants own intestines in order to allow the bile to flow freely out of the liver which prevents any further damage to the liver from occurring.

However, this procedure may not be successful in cases where the internal bile ducts of the liver are blocked and a liver transplant may be the only viable option. This procedure is effective in approximately sixty to eighty percent of patients, however, even when this surgery is successful; most children will require a liver transplant by the time they reach the age of five.

Biliary Atresia and Children’s Nutrition

Children who have biliary atresia will have faster rate of metabolism than is seen in children who do not have biliary atresia, therefore, these children may need their caloric intake increased. These children will also experience the loss of essential vitamins and nutrients caused by the damage to the liver.

A physician will typically recommend a healthy diet that consists of three meals a day including snacks to be eaten in between meals as well as vitamin supplements. In cases where the child has the inability to eat due to their illness, they may be placed on a high-calorie liquid that may be given through a feeding tube.

While this condition is extremely rare as it occurs in approximately one out of ten thousands births, if your baby is experiencing any symptoms that are concerning you – particularly jaundice – it is essential that you call your physician for advice or seek immediate medical assistance.