Children's Hospital Colorado

Biliary Atresia

What is biliary atresia?

Biliary atresia is a liver disease that starts in infancy and is caused by inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts or "biliary tree." The biliary tree is a series of tubes that drain bile from the liver into the intestines. Improper bile drainage impairs the digestion of fats, which leads to poor growth, vitamin deficiencies and chronic liver damage.

Usually around the time of diagnosis, the large bile duct that exits the liver is blocked due to scar tissue, and the bile cannot flow through. We use a surgical procedure known as the Kasai procedure, or Kasai portoenterostomy, to re-establish bile flow. This early surgical correction to clear the blockage and allow bile to flow into the intestine can sometimes work as a long-term solution, but most will ultimately need a liver transplant.

What are some biliary atresia causes?

Doctors do not currently know the cause of biliary atresia in infants. However, many hospitals across the country, including Children's Hospital Colorado, are conducting research on the cause of biliary atresia.

Who gets biliary atresia?

Biliary atresia occurs in about one out of every 12,000 live births in the United States and is more common in females, premature infants and Asians.

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Melanie Merrill-Kennedy, PA-C

Melanie Merrill-Kennedy, PA-C

Physician Assistant

Jilayne Kloote Smith, PNP, RN

Jilayne Kloote Smith, PNP, RN

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

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Calies Menard-Katcher, MD

Calies Menard-Katcher, MD

Gastroenterology - Pediatric

Amy Feldman, MD, MSCS

Amy Feldman, MD, MSCS

Gastroenterology - Pediatric, Pediatric Transplant Hepatology