Obstructive jaundice



What is Obstructive jaundice?

Obstructive jaundice is a condition in which there is blockage of the flow of bile out of the liver. This results in redirection of excess bile and its by-products into the blood, and bile excretion from the body is incomplete. Bile contains many by-products, one of which is bilirubin, a pigment derived from dead red blood cells. Bilirubin is yellow, and this gives the characteristic yellow appearance of jaundice in the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

How common is Obstructive jaundice?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Obstructive jaundice?

The common symptoms of Obstructive jaundice are:

As the condition worsens, other symptoms may appear:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • ​​​Fever
  • Chills
  • Vomiting and nausea

Other symptoms vary, depending on the underlying cause of the obstruction although you may also feel tired.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Obstructive jaundice?

Obstructive jaundice occurs when the essential flow of bile to the intestine is blocked and remains in the bloodstream. This might be due to blocked bile ducts caused by gallstones, or tumours of the bile duct which can block the area where the bile duct meets the duodenum. These may be cancerous.

Pancreatic cancer can also be a cause of blockages as it often occurs near to the ampulla of Vater, the tube which joins the pancreas gland to the duodenum.

Other conditions that can cause obstructive jaundice include those that cause pressure on the bile duct such as swelling of lymph glands, scar tissue (from previous infections or surgery), or a cyst, possibly of the pancreas.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Obstructive jaundice?

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Obstructive jaundice diagnosed?

As obstructive jaundice is a serious condition linked to high mortality rates early diagnosis is important. If it is caught early enough a curative operation to remove the blockage is possible, otherwise only palliative treatments that ease the symptoms and which may prolong life are available.

Obstructive jaundice can be diagnosed through various tests including blood tests to examine the level of bilirubin, as well as ultrasound of the liver and bile ducts to find out the exact cause of the obstruction is. CT scans are also used to help examine what is causing the blockage.

How is Obstructive jaundice treated?

Depending on the underlying cause, the doctor may initially prescribe pain medications and antibiotics to treat the infection if the cause is related to gallstone disease.

The doctor may advise you ERCP-a procedure known as Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTC) with percutaneous biliary drainage. Essentially this allows the drainage of bile that has built up in the liver.

Definitive treatment will depend on the cause of the jaundice.

If gallstones are diagnosed, endoscopic removal of the stones obstructing the bile duct is recommended. Endoscopic stenting is sometimes necessary as a temporary measure to relieve the bile duct obstruction and clear any bacterial infection before definitive surgery. Thereafter, laparoscopic (keyhole surgery) cholecystectomy is advised to remove the gallbladder, from which most gallstones originate from.

If the root cause of obstructive jaundice is a malignant tumor, the long-term outcome of such patients is best served if the tumor can be surgically removed.

Unfortunately, the majority of patients with malignant tumors may not be suitable for surgery, hence, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy will be the next best option. For such patients, the obstructive jaundice can be relieved through the insertion of a stent by endoscopic guidance or radiologic guidance, once the diagnosis of cancer is established.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Obstructive jaundice?

To prevent jaundice resulting from gallstone disease, eat a healthy, balanced diet and reduce your intake of fatty foods and alcohol.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: April 7, 2018 | Last Modified: April 7, 2018

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