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Biliary Atresia

California Pediatric Surgical Group

General Surgery & Pediatric Surgery located in Santa Barbara, & Ventura, CA

If your newborn’s skin turns yellow within their first couple of weeks or months, they may have a rare liver disease called biliary atresia. California Pediatric Surgical Group provides comprehensive care for infants with biliary atresia at their locations in Santa Barbara, and Ventura, California, offices. Biliary atresia can be fatal without surgical treatment, so call the location nearest you or book an appointment online right away.

Biliary Atresia Q&A

What is biliary atresia?

Biliary atresia is a disease that occurs in infants and affects the bile ducts, which are tubes in the liver. Bile is a fluid produced by the liver that your body uses for digestion and waste removal. Biliary atresia blocks the bile ducts so that bile builds up and quickly damages the liver. Eventually, this leads to scarring of the liver cells (cirrhosis) and liver failure. 

What are the symptoms of biliary atresia?

Most babies with biliary atresia appear healthy at birth. Symptoms typically appear within the first two weeks or months of life and may include:

  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Weight loss and irritability
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine


Many newborns have jaundice due to an immature liver, but when this is the case, it usually disappears within the first week to 10 days. Babies with biliary atresia often have a normal skin tone at birth and then develop jaundice about 2-3 weeks later.

How is biliary atresia diagnosed?

The doctor first reviews your infant’s medical and family history and performs a physical exam. They may take a series of tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Abdominal X-ray
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Liver biopsy


Diagnostic surgery can confirm that your infant has biliary atresia because it allows the surgeon to see the injured bile duct. The California Pediatric Surgical Group team may use minimally invasive laparoscopy for this procedure. Laparoscopy involves inserting a thin, tube-like camera into a tiny incision and doesn’t require opening the abdomen. 

If your California Pediatric Surgical Group surgeon confirms biliary atresia, they may treat the condition right away.

How is biliary atresia treated?

Treatment for biliary atresia requires surgery. The California Pediatric Surgical Group usually begins treatment with a surgery called the Kasai procedure. However, most people with biliary atresia eventually need a liver transplant. 

The Kasai procedure involves removing damaged bile ducts outside the liver and replacing them with a loop of the infant’s small intestine. This allows bile to flow from the liver to the small intestine. The Kasai procedure doesn’t cure biliary atresia, but it allows your baby to grow in fairly good health for several, sometimes many, years. 

For the highest-quality care of biliary atresia, call California Pediatric Surgical Group or book an appointment online today.

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