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Percutaneous Biliary Drainage

Bile is a substance made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It helps you digest food. Bile normally passes out of the liver through a series of tubes (ducts). Bile can back up into the liver if a duct becomes blocked. It can also back up if a hole or tear forms in a duct. Biliary drainage is a procedure to drain bile from the liver. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Front view of liver, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder, and common bile duct.

Before the procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to get ready. These include:

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

  • Tell the technologist what medicines, herbs, or supplements you take. Also tell the technologist if you are or may be pregnant, or if you are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium) or other medicines.

During the procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lie on an X-ray table.

  • An IV (intravenous) line will be put into a vein. This is to give you fluids and medicines. You may be given medicine to help you relax and make you feel sleepy.

  • The skin on your stomach is cleaned. Medicine is put on the skin to numb it.

  • A needle is put into the liver. Contrast medium is injected into the ducts. This helps the duct system show clearly on X-rays.

  • A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is put in and moved into the liver. The radiologist uses X-ray or ultrasound pictures as a guide. He or she moves the catheter into the duct that needs to be drained.

  • Bile drains through the catheter out of your body. A bag is attached to the end of the catheter to collect the bile as it drains.

  • The radiologist may be able to use the catheter to clear the blockage during the procedure. In this case, a metal cylinder (stent) may then be put in the duct to help keep it open. This allows the catheter to be taken out, usually at a later time.

Possible risks and complications

  • Infection inside your body or at the insertion site

  • Bleeding at the insertion site

  • Leakage of bile into the abdomen

  • Bleeding inside the liver. You may need a blood transfusion for this.

  • Problems because of contrast medium. These include allergic reaction or kidney damage.

After the procedure

  • A slight fever is normal for the first 24 hours after the procedure.

  • You will likely stay in the hospital overnight or longer.

  • Care for the catheter and drainage site as directed.

  • Talk with your health care provider about how long the catheter will need to stay in place.


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