Biliary atresia

Lancet. 2009 Nov 14;374(9702):1704-13. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60946-6.


Biliary atresia is a rare disease of infancy, which has changed within 30 years from being fatal to being a disorder for which effective palliative surgery or curative liver transplantation, or both, are available. Good outcomes for infants depend on early referral and timely Kasai portoenterostomy, and thus a high index of suspicion is needed for investigation of infants with persistent jaundice. In centres with much experience of treating this disorder, up to 60% of children will achieve biliary drainage after Kasai portoenterostomy and will have serum bilirubin within the normal range within 6 months. 80% of children who attain satisfactory biliary drainage will reach adolescence with a good quality of life without undergoing liver transplantation. Although much is known about management of biliary atresia, many aspects are poorly understood, including its pathogenesis. Several hypotheses exist, implicating genetic predisposition and dysregulation of immunity, but the cause is probably multifactorial, with obliterative extrahepatic cholangiopathy as the common endpoint. Researchers are focused on identification of relevant genetic and immune factors and understanding serum and hepatic factors that drive liver fibrosis after Kasai portoenterostomy. These factors might become therapeutic targets to halt the inevitable development of cirrhosis and need for liver transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / epidemiology
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / genetics
  • Algorithms
  • Biliary Atresia / diagnosis*
  • Biliary Atresia / epidemiology
  • Biliary Atresia / etiology
  • Biliary Atresia / surgery*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Progression
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / etiology
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Neonatal Screening
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Selection
  • Portoenterostomy, Hepatic
  • Prognosis
  • Rare Diseases
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome