Biliary Drainage

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A Biliary Drainage Catheter

A biliary catheter is a small flexible, rubber tube placed into the common bile duct, the passageway for the bile to flow from the gallbladder and liver to the duodenum (small intestine or bowel). The catheter can drain the bile either internally (inside your intestines) or externally (into a bag outside your body). Bile is a thick fluid, usually golden yellow in color.

Why You Need a Biliary Drainage Catheter

You may need this catheter because you have:

  • A blockage of the bile ducts, causing the bile to back up into your liver
  • A hole in the bile duct causing bile to leak
  • To prepare for surgery or for some other procedure on your bile ducts, such as removal of a stone or tumor

Installing the Biliary Tube

A needle will be inserted through your skin into a bile duct, contrast dye injected and then the biliary tube advanced into the bile duct. You may feel some pressure and discomfort when the tube is inserted.

The biliary tube site will be covered with a dressing and connected to a drainage bag. 

Before you are discharged from the hospital, a nurse will provide care instructions and supplies with a family member or significant other present.

How Long the Biliary Tube Remains

This depends on the reason you needed the catheter.

  • A blockage of the bile duct by stones, infection, scar tissue or tumor: As long as the blockage is present.
  • A hole in the bile duct: Until the hole is healed.
  • In preparation for bile duct surgery: You will need the tube for several days to months after surgery, depending upon what is found at the time of surgery.

Your doctors will discuss with you how long you are likely to need the drainage catheter.