Bile Duct Injuries Following Gallbladder Surgery

The most common cause of bile duct injuries is trauma to the bile duct during a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder surgery). It is estimated that as many as 1% of gallbladder operations may lead to injury to the bile duct with subsequent development of a bile duct stricture.

A bile duct stricture is caused by the narrowing of the bile duct, due to scar formation. The narrow bile duct prevents the bile from draining into the intestine. The bile then backs up into the liver and spills over into the bloodstream causing obstructive jaundice.

In addition to injury to the bile duct, injury to the hepatic artery (the blood vessel that supplies blood to the liver) is commonly associated with a bile duct injury, in 20 percent of cases.

Symptoms of Bile Duct Injuries

Patients with bile duct injury after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy may experience symptoms soon after surgery, or several weeks to months after the injury has occurred.

Patients with early onset of symptoms, usually present with leakage of bile into the abdominal cavity. Some of the symptoms that are associated with this include:

  • Persistent pain and discomfort
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Jaundice

Since patients generally recover rapidly after laparoscopic cholecystectomy, physicians should carefully evaluate patients who are not improving for possible bile duct injury from laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Patients who develop delayed symptoms from a bile duct injury usually have scarring of the bile duct from the injury, which leads to narrowing of the bile duct (bile duct stricture) so that bile cannot pass through. These patients experience jaundice as their primary symptom.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek proper evaluation and treatment from a healthcare expert experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of bile duct injuries, as well as other hepatobiliary conditions.