Woman discussing ongoing stomach pain with her doctor

AdventHealth Digestive Institute Offers Expert Treatment for Bile Duct Obstruction

Bile ducts, sometimes called the biliary tree or biliary system, are what allow bile to pass from the liver to the small intestine to help with the digestion of food. Unfortunately, bile ducts can become blocked. Gallstones or bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) are the usual causes of these blockages. However, injury to the bile ducts, often from prior gallbladder surgery, can result in bile duct obstruction as well. Rarer causes include abnormal bile duct narrowing, bile duct cysts or the enlargement of lymph nodes in the area.

The advanced gastroenterologists and Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) surgeons at AdventHealth Digestive Institute have the necessary experience and skill to treat patients with bile duct obstruction.

Bile Duct Obstruction Symptoms

When one of the bile ducts becomes blocked, patients often experience:

  • Jaundice, yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Stools that are clay-colored
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Dark urine

Diagnosis of a Bile Duct Condition

If your doctor suspects you may have a bile duct blockage, tests will be done to look at the extent of the blockage and determine what is causing it.

In addition to a physical exam and lab test, you will likely need some of the following procedures:

  • Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. These tests reveal if a tumor is present and can provide very detailed images of the bile ducts and liver.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). ERCP uses a lighted tube inserted through your mouth, down through the esophagus, into the stomach and then into the small intestine (duodenum) and through the papilla of vater to see the bile ducts.
  • Cholangiogram. A cholangiogram is an X-ray of the bile ducts. Dye is injected, and X-rays are taken which give a road map to the biliary tree. The test is performed along with an ERCP.
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA). If you have an area that could be a cancerous tumor, a biopsy of the tumor taken through an FNA may be done. This involves a small needle that removes small samples of several layers of cells. This biopsy is usually done from the inside with an ERCP. A cholangiogram may also be used to help the doctor know which areas to sample. The sampled cells are then sent to a pathologist who can determine if they are cancer or not.


The goal of treatment is to physically remove the blockage. The way this is done is determined by the cause and location of the obstruction.

For blockages at the sphincter of Oddi caused by gallstones. Stones can often be removed endoscopically during an ERCP procedure. This is a minimally invasive procedure that involves no external incisions. Part of the sphincter of Oddi, where the bile duct shared by the gallbladder and pancreas drains into the small intestine, is removed with small instruments on the end of the endoscope used for ERCP. This allows the stone causing the blockage to dislodge.

For blockages with other causes or in other locations. Surgery may be necessary.

Surgery is highly recommended if:

  • A patient is getting sicker.
  • The obstruction is getting worse.
  • The blockage has caused a tear in the bile duct.
  • A tumor mass (benign or malignant) is present. Completely removing the tumor is the only potential way to cure cancers of the lower bile duct.
  • The ERCP used to dislodge the gallstone did not work or the patient’s symptoms do not go away.

At AdventHealth Digestive Institute, Dr. Sharona Ross strives to offer patients minimally invasive surgeries to correct bile duct obstruction. When these surgeries are performed laparoscopically instead of as open procedures, patients experience less pain after surgery and recover much faster.

Pancreatic, Biliary and Gallbladder Disease

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  • Pancreatic Cancer

    Our surgeons are among the region’s most experienced in pancreatic surgery. We can help treat your cancer with minimally invasive options. Learn more today.

  • Pancreatic Conditions

    Gastroenterologists and surgeons at AdventHealth Digestive Institute are experts for treating Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Cyst and other conditions of the pancreas.

  • Pancreatic Surgery

    AdventHealth Digestive Institute's pancreas surgeons offer minimally invasive pancreatectomy for Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Cysts and Pancreatic Cancer. Learn more.

  • Gallbladder Cancer

    Removing the gallbladder with cancer is a very complex surgery that requires highly experienced surgeons like those at AdventHealth Digestive Institute.

  • Gallbladder Conditions

    Advanced surgeons at AdventHealth Digestive Institute provide cholecystectomy and other treatments for gallbladder pain and gallstones.

  • Gallbladder Surgery

    Surgeons at the AdventHealth Digestive Institute provide advanced, scar-less cholecystectomy for gallbladder pain and gallstones.

  • Bile Duct Diseases and Conditions

    AdventHealth Digestive Institute gastroenterologists and gastrointestinal surgeons treat bile duct obstruction (blocked bile duct) and cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).

  • Endoscopy for Pancreatic, Bile Duct and Gallbladder Conditions

    Gastroenterologists at AdventHealth Digestive Institute use ERCP and endoscopic ultrasound to diagnose and treat pancreas, gallbladder and bile duct diseases.

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Meet The Experts

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Dr. Sharona Ross.

Sharona Ross


Advanced Foregut and HPB Surgeon

Dr. Iswanto Sucandy

Iswanto Sucandy


Advanced HPB Surgeon

Sandra Freeman

Sandra G. Freeman


Nurse Practitioner

Dana Manzi

Dana Manzi


Nurse Practitioner

Betsy Prator

Betsy Prator


Nurse Practitioner

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