Liver Diseases

Bile Duct Diseases

Mount Sinai is leading the way in clinical trials to find medications to treat bile duct diseases while providing integrated care to manage these conditions. Bile ducts play an important role in your body’s digestive system. They carry bile produced in the liver to the small intestine. When functioning normally, bile digests the fats in the small intestine.

Bile duct disease can cause your bile ducts to become inflamed and blocked. Bile then accumulates in the liver, causing inflammation, and scarring (fibrosis) of your liver. The extent of bile duct disease varies from person to person. In very rare advanced cases, these abnormalities can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and cancer of the bile ducts or liver.

Types of Bile Duct Disease

There are two primary types of bile duct diseases: primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

Primary biliary cholangitis
Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), also known as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), causes inflammation of the liver. PBC is a long-term (chronic) liver disease that is triggered by your immune system -- a type of autoimmune liver disease -- that slowly damages your bile ducts.

In the early stages of PBC, you may have no symptoms. However, routine blood tests may indicate that the main liver enzyme produced by your bile ducts, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), may be elevated. ALP rises when diseases obstruct or damage bile ducts.

If you are diagnosed with PBC during its early stages, we can manage your condition medically and offer you access to clinical trials for the latest, most advanced treatments.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a disease without a known cause. It is considered an autoimmune disease, possibly associated with inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

PSC leads to inflammation and scarring, which slowly causes damage of the bile ducts. If you have PSC, we will monitor you closely since you may be at risk for developing cirrhosis, liver failure, colon cancer, primary liver cancer, or bile duct cancer. Mount Sinai is a leader in conducting drug trials to develop treatments for PSC. Ask your doctor if you qualify to participate.

Possible Transplantation

You may need a liver transplant evaluation if you have PBC or PSC and your condition progresses to cirrhosis or liver failure, or if you develop bile duct infections, primary liver cancer, or bile duct cancer. Mount Sinai can help you with that process of considering transplantation. Our experts will consult with you and answer any questions you may have. Our renowned Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute offers comprehensive care before, during, and after liver transplantation.