Stones in the bile duct are often a consequence of gallbladder stones migrating into the bile duct. Sometimes stones may form in the bile duct itself as a primary event. Stones in the bile duct can cause jaundice, infection (cholangitis) as well as inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
Jaundice refers to yellowing of the skin and the white of the eyes (sclera). The urine turns dark, and stools may be lighter in colour. When cholangitis is present, there is fever which is often experienced together with feeling cold and intense shivering. Pain is felt over the upper central abdominal region, which may be felt going to the back in the case of pancreatitis.
Antibiotics will be given to treat the infection that is often associated with the bile duct obstruction by the stones. Options to remove bile duct stones include endoscopic or operative procedures. The endoscopic procedure is known as Endoscopic Retrograde CholangioPancreatography (ERCP).
Following successful removal of bile duct stones with ERCP, surgery to remove the gallbladder is still recommended to prevent future occurrence of this and other gallstone related problems.
Surgical techniques to remove the bile duct stones include both laparoscopic and open procedures. Occasionally, percutaneous radiological guided procedures may be undertaken to relief the obstruction due to the stone, or to remove stones that are still present following a surgical procedure.