Biliary atresia is a liver-related condition in infants. It causes the bile ducts (tubes located inside and outside the liver) to become blocked. These tubes carry bile (a fluid that helps digestion) into the intestine. When these ducts become blocked, bile builds up in the liver and causes damage. Over time, biliary atresia can lead to decreased liver function and cirrhosis (severe liver scarring).

Symptoms of Biliary Atresia

By 3 to 6 weeks of age, babies with biliary atresia typically develop jaundice (a yellow tint to their skin and eye whites). The buildup of bile in the liver causes jaundice and generally is the only sign or symptom of biliary atresia.

When to see a doctor

If you notice your baby’s skin or eye whites becoming yellow in color, you should take them to see their doctor right away.

Causes of Biliary Atresia

The cause of biliary atresia is unknown, but it may be due to bile ducts that do not form properly during a baby’s development.

Who’s at risk

Female babies may have an increased risk for biliary atresia compared to male babies. Other risk factors include:

  • Asian or African American heritage
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy
  • Preterm birth (before 36 weeks of gestation)
  • Poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy

Babies born with biliary atresia may also have other health problems that affect the heart, spleen, blood vessels or intestine. 

Request an Appointment

Contact an Orlando Health doctor

If you suspect that your child may have biliary atresia, make an appointment with an Orlando Health pediatrician today so your child can start on the road to improved health.