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Bile is an important fluid produced by your child’s liver and stored in her gallbladder. In a healthy system, it flows through a tube called the common bile duct to the small intestine, where it helps to digest food.
If your child has biliary atresia, her common bile duct is blocked or damaged, so that it’s impossible for bile to flow through it, just as it’s hard for water to pass through a clogged pipe. This is called “cholestasis,” or poor bile flow, and quickly leads to malnutrition and liver damage.
Biliary atresia is a chronic, progressive liver problem, and fatal if left untreated. This condition:
There are two main reasons why biliary atresia is a problem. First, it makes it harder for bile to get to your child’s small intestines. Without enough bile in the small intestines, it’s more difficult for your child’s body to digest fat and harder for the body to get rid of certain toxins that need bile to help them exit the body.
Second, biliary atresia causes liver damage. As the biliary atresia progresses, inflammation and scarring damage the liver more and more, eventually resulting in cirrhosis of the liver. If bile can’t leave the liver, it accumulates. This can result in a buildup of toxins that causes even more liver damage and raises your child’s cholesterol level.
At Boston Children’s, biliary atresia is treated by a small number of doctors with specific expertise within the large, multidisciplinary Divisions of Gastroenterology and Pediatric Surgery. We’re known for our individualized and science-driven approach. We’re home to the most extensive research enterprise located in a pediatric hospital in the world, and we partner with a number of top biotech and health care organizations—but our physicians never forget that your child is a child, and not just a patient.
Boston Children’s is also home to New England’s largest pediatric Liver Transplant Program. If your child has biliary atresia, our team will work with you from the beginning to identify the best treatment options for each stage of his or her condition.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”