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Percutaneous Biliary Drainage

Bile is a substance made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It helps with digestion. Normally, bile passes out of the liver through a series of ducts (natural tubes). When a duct becomes blocked, or a hole or tear forms in a duct, bile can back up into the liver. Biliary drainage is a procedure to drain bile from the liver. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Front view of liver, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder, and common bile duct.

Before the Procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to prepare, including:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 6┬áhours before the procedure.

  • Tell the technologist what medications, herbs, or supplements you take; if you are, or may be, pregnant; or if you are allergic to contrast medium (X-ray dye) or other medications.

During the Procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lie on an X-ray table.

  • An IV (intravenous) line will be put into a vein to give you fluids and medications. You may be given medication to help you relax and make you feel sleepy.

  • The skin on your stomach is cleaned and numbed with a local anesthetic.

  • A needle is inserted into the liver. Contrast medium is injected into the ducts. This helps the duct system show clearly on X-rays.

  • A catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted and moved into the liver. Using X-ray or ultrasound pictures as a guide, the radiologist moves the catheter into the duct that needs to be drained.

  • Bile drains through the catheter out of your body. A bag is attached to the end of the catheter to capture the bile as it drains.

  • During the procedure, it may be possible for the radiologist to use the catheter to clear the blockage. In this case, a stent (metal cylinder) may then be placed in the duct to help keep it open. This allows the catheter to be removed, usually at a later time.

Potential Risks and Complications

  • Infection internally or at the insertion site

  • Bleeding at the insertion site

  • Leakage of bile into the abdomen

  • Bleeding inside the liver, possibly requiring a blood transfusion

  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

After the Procedure

  • A slight fever is normal for the first 24 hours after the procedure.

  • You will likely stay in the hospital overnight or longer.

  • Care for the catheter and drainage site as directed.

  • Talk to your doctor about how long the catheter will need to stay in place.


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