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Biliary Drainage: putting a tube in the bile duct

South City Hospital > Diagnostic Services > Radiology > Biliary Drainage: putting a tube in the bile duct

Biliary Drainage: putting a tube in the bile duct

Biliary drainage is the insertion of a tube into the bile duct. This is most commonly carried out when the bile ducts are blocked.
The bile ducts normally allow bile (a green-brown fluid that is produced by the liver to help with the digestion of fats) to drain from the liver to the small intestine.

When the bile ducts are blocked, bile cannot leave the body and builds up. This build-up produces a yellow color in the skin called jaundice and can also cause itching and dark urine.

Blockage of the bile ducts can occur for several reasons, including gallstones impacted in the ducts, narrowings in the bile ducts after previous surgery, and involvement of cancer in the ducts.

The drainage tube is placed through the skin into one of the bile ducts in the liver to allow bile out. Another common name for this procedure is a percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTC).

How do I prepare for biliary drainage?
Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before the procedure. This is because the procedure is carried out under sedation or general anesthetic – if your stomach is full, stomach contents can inadvertently pass into your lungs, which can be harmful. This can happen any time you have sedative medication or anesthesia, not just with biliary drainage, and is the reason you are asked not to eat or drink.
If you are diabetic, you are advised to check with the radiology practice before fasting.

You may need to stop medications that thin your blood, as these will increase your risk of bleeding. If you think that you may be taking any of these medications, please discuss this with the radiology practice before the procedure.

Bring all of your usual medication(s) (or a complete list) with you.

It is also recommended that you bring any recent X-rays or scans with you if you have copies at home.

A relative or friend must be available to drive you home after the procedure, as you will not be allowed to drive after sedation or anesthesia. It is also recommended that the relative or friend stay with you the night after the procedure to provide assistance.

What happens during biliary drainage?
This procedure is usually carried out with the assistance of either sedation (medication to relax you) or a general anesthetic. Intravenous antibiotics are also routinely given before the procedure.

The skin of your abdomen is washed with antiseptic and then a very fine needle is inserted through the skin to administer local anesthetic. This may sting for a few seconds before numbing the area.

A small cut is made in the skin and a thin needle is passed through the skin into the liver and then into a bile duct inside the liver. X-ray dye or contrast medium is injected into the bile duct, which allows it to be seen in X-ray pictures. X-ray pictures or images are taken to see the path of the bile ducts.

A thin wire is passed through the center of the needle so that it lies in the bile duct. A thin drain tube is then inserted over the top of the wire and into the bile duct.

One end of the drain tube will remain in the bile duct and the other end sits outside the skin where it is attached to a bag into which the bile drains. It is therefore normal for this bag to fill up with green-brown bile.

Are there any after-effects of biliary drainage?
After the procedure, you may need to recover from the effects of any sedation or anesthetic medications that were used.

There is usually some initial discomfort or pain where the tube passes through the skin. This is usually well managed with simple pain-relieving medications. Sometimes the pain is severe and can go on for some days requiring strong analgesia.

The drainage bag will need to be emptied regularly. You will be advised on how to do this. If the tube needs to stay in for a long time, some skin redness/irritation can occur around the point at which the drain enters the skin.

How long does biliary drainage take?
Before the procedure, some preparatory steps may take an hour or so to complete; these include recording your heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, inserting a cannula (a long thin plastic tube) into a vein, and giving intravenous antibiotics.

Inserting the drain usually takes 60–90 minutes. After the procedure, you will need to be monitored for at least 4–6 hours, and many patients are booked to stay in the hospital overnight. If you are going home, you will require someone to drive you and stay with you overnight. It is advisable to discuss this with your doctor before the procedure.

Usually, you will have had some other imaging test(s) to plan how to do the biliary drainage and these might include computed tomography (CT) scanning, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They may be carried out on the day of the procedure or days before it.

What are the risks of biliary drainage?
The risks of this procedure vary between different people. This is because some people will be significantly sicker than others before starting, and because some biliary drainage procedures are more difficult to carry out than others. In general, the risks include the risk of the sedation/anesthetic and the risks of the procedure itself.

Biliary drainage complications include bleeding, infection, and leak of bile into the abdominal cavity or the space around the lung.

Complications may result in the need for emergency treatment or even surgery. However, if left untreated, a blockage of the bile duct is associated with a significantly higher risk of serious illness and death.

What are the benefits of biliary drainage?
If you are suffering symptoms of a blocked bile duct, such as skin discoloration, itching, nausea, and tiredness, biliary drainage may relieve some of these symptoms over time (it often takes several days after the procedure for these benefits to become apparent). If the bile in the blocked bile ducts is infected, biliary drainage is an important part of the treatment. Biliary drainage often improves liver function tests in patients requiring chemotherapy as part of cancer treatment.

Who does the biliary drainage?
Biliary drainage is carried out by a radiologist. This is a specialist doctor trained to carry out procedures using imaging guidance techniques, such as X-rays and ultrasounds. The radiologist who carries out your drainage will send a written report to the doctor who refers you for the procedure.

Where is biliary drainage done?
Biliary drainage is carried out in the radiology department of a hospital, in a dedicated room like an operating theatre where an X-ray machine is situated.

Dr.Wasey Mahmud Jilani
Fellowship in Diagnostic Radiology,
College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan,
Fellowship in Vascular Interventional Radiology

Monday to Saturday
10am to 5pm

Nasir / Salman
(+92)213 529 2707