If the bile ducts become blocked, bile cannot pass into the intestine and may result in jaundice. If the jaundice becomes severe, individuals will appear to have a yellowish hue, particularly in the whites of the eye. If the duct that connects the gallbladder to the rest of the bile ducts becomes blocked, usually as a result of gallstones, the result is inflammation or infection called cholecystitis. While this is generally treated by the surgical removal of the gallbladder either through open or laparoscopic surgery, patients who are too ill to undergo have another option: biliary drainage.
CIRA’s fellowship-trained interventional radiologists offer two minimally invasive biliary drainage procedures to relieve obstructions. The first, and most common, involves the gallbladder and is called a cholecystostomy tube insertion. It is typically performed on patients with an infected gallbladder and can be lifesaving when surgical gallbladder removal is too risky.
The second procedure, percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTC), is necessary when the common bile duct is obstructed. PTC relieves liver congestion so the liver can return to normal function. Both types of drains involve the insertion of a catheter into the abdomen, which remains in place up to four weeks or until the problem is resolved.