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Biliary Atresia Complications | Biliary Atresia Awareness and Research

Biliary Atresia Complications

Portal Hypertension
May 3, 2014
Liver Transplant
May 4, 2014
Young woman is scratching herself on arm. Isolated on white.

Biliary Atresia Complications

Both before and after the Kasai procedure, infants will receive a specific diet with the right mix of nutrients and vitamins in a form that does not require bile to be absorbed. Poor nutrition can lead to problems with development, so doctors will monitor an infant’s nutritional intake closely.

Some infants develop fluid in the abdomen after the Kasai procedure, which makes the baby’s belly swell. This condition is called ascites and usually only lasts for a few weeks. If ascites lasts for more than 6 weeks, cirrhosis is likely present and the infant will probably require a liver transplant.

Also common after the Kasai procedure is infection in the remaining bile ducts inside the liver, called cholangitis. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to prevent cholangitis or prescribe them once the infection occurs.

Children with Biliary Atresia may continue to have liver problems after the Kasai procedure. Even with success of the operation and return of bile flow, most children will develop injury and loss of the small bile ducts inside the liver, which can cause scarring and cirrhosis.

The liver affected by cirrhosis does not work well and is more rigid and stiff than a normal liver. As a result, the blood flow through the liver is slowed and under higher pressure. This condition is called portal hypertension. Portal hypertension can also cause flow of blood around, rather than through, the liver. This complication can cause intestinal bleeding that may require surgery and eventually lead to a recommendation for a liver transplant.

Enlarged spleens are also a common with liver disease, typically if you have portal hypertension, you will also have an enlarged spleen. An enlarged spleen will cause easy bruising and bleeding due to low platelets.

Cirrhosis of the liver can also lead to problems with nutrition and itching skin. Itching, called pruritus, is caused by the build up of bile in the blood and irritation of nerve endings in the skin. Doctors may prescribe medications for itching including resins that bind bile in the intestines or antihistamines that decrease the skin’s sensation of itching.