Enlarged Bile Duct Symptoms: Causes Of Dilated Common Bile Duct

Bile is a liquid substance produced by liver which helps in digestion of fats from the food that you eat. It also gives yellow color to your stools. Bile is stored in gallbladder and when you eat food, gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine (duodenum). The tube that carries bile from gallbladder to the small intestine is called bile duct.

Whenever there is blockage or obstruction in bile duct, it enlarges in it size or dilates. The first symptom you may notice is pale colored stool and dark urine if bile duct is blocked, if the blockage progresses further it causes yellow discoloration of your eyes and skin.

Causes Of Enlarged Common Bile Duct

An obstruction of the bile duct which results into its enlargement is caused due many causes. It always needs further investigation. The common causes of bile duct enlargement are:

  • Gallstones: Small gallstones dislodges from the gallbladder, travel all the way in the bile duct and get impacted in the ampula of vater, it is the narrowest site of the bile duct where gallstones can get impacted. The pancreatic duct also drains in this area, before entering in the duodenum.
  • Inflammation of bile duct: an inflammation of bile duct due to infection can give rise to its enlargement.
  • Enlargement of lymph node in the transverse fissure of the visceral surface of the liver where the vein and artery enter and hepatic duct leaves. It is also called porta hepatis.
  • Cysts in the common bile duct.
  • Post operative stricture in the region of bile duct.
  • Carcinoma of the bile duct accounts for one percent of all malignant neoplasm. In ninety percent of cases gall stones are present. The condition is more prevalent in women than in men. Carcinoma is rare under the age of forty. Malignant cancer of bile duct is known as cholangiocarcinoma. It is less common than gallbladder cancer. The cancer may grow slowly without pain. It eventually spreads throughout the liver.
  • Tumor of head of pancreas can also cause enlargement of bile duct. There may be associated weight loss.

Symptoms Of Dilated Common Bile Duct

Enlarged bile duct symptoms vary depending upon the cause of enlargement or dilation:

Gallstones in bile duct leading to its enlargement:

  • Usually there is a long history of flatulent dyspepsia (eructation).
  • Frequent episodes of abdominal colic.
  • Pain is severe in the upper abdomen due to impaction of the gallstone in the bile duct. It is difficult to relieve this pain. A parous woman will often say that the pain of childbirth is preferable than this pain.
  • An impacted gallstone in the bile duct can cause pancreatitis.
  • Jaundice: within 2 days jaundice sets in. The urine becomes dark with bile, and the feces become pale.
  • Skin begins to itch.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms due to strictures:

  • About 15 percent of bile duct injuries are detected at the time of operation. 85 percent are detected after the operation. They manifest as profuse and persistent discharge of the bile through the drainage tube or by deepening jaundice.

Enlarged bile duct symptom resulting from carcinoma:

  • In half of the cases gallstone coexists.
  • Pain may be mild.
  • Jaundice
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Mild fever.
  • Itching all over the body.
  • Dark yellow or orange urine.
  • Pale or white colored bowel motions.


  1. SH said:

    I am interested in knowing, how biliary ducts can be brought back to its normal shape/form?

    October 5, 2012
    • PUP said:

      Biliary duct gets enlarged due to obstruction in its route because of stone or a growth. Infection in the bile duct can also give rise to biliary enlargement. Treating the cause will reduce the enlargement of biliary duct. For example removal of stone in the duct will obviously increase the bile flow which used to get accumulated leading to enlargement.

      October 6, 2012
  2. Patti said:

    Is it common to experience an enlarged spleen with bile duct obstruction? My liver is slightly enlarged and my spleen is enlarged too. The condition is “marked enlargement of spleen”. How can I deal with this?

    July 12, 2013
    • PUP said:

      Spleen is one of the most vital organs of lymphatic system. It is generally the size of a person’s fist. There are several reasons for enlargement of spleen and bile duct obstruction is one of them. Primarily you have to find the cause for bile duct obstruction, the most common being gall bladder stones. If it so they may need surgical removal of the stone.

      July 16, 2013
  3. ST said:

    I have these typical symptoms of feeling pressure under my ribcage on the right side especially after I eat. There is no pain or fever. No discolouration of urine or weight loss. This has been for about 2 months now. I also experience shortness of breath which I guess is due to pollens. I have done an ultrasound as I was diagnosed for dilated bile duct. I have an appointment with my doctor in two weeks. What do these symptoms indicate about my condition?

    September 9, 2013
    • PUP said:

      The symptoms of pressure and heaviness under the right rib cage after eating food can be due to reasons such as gall stone, acid reflux, etc. However, heart ailment has to be ruled out. Because some time in coronary heart disease patient may complain of pain under right rib cage along with other symptoms. As you have done sonography, do an ECG (electrocardiogram) test, that may help to rule out cardiac pathology. Meanwhile, eat small quantity of food at a time. Eat low fat diet. Avoid fried and spicy food. Drink a glass of lemon juice added with 1 tsp of honey in morning.

      September 10, 2013
  4. CD said:

    I have been diagnosed with common bile duct enlargement. For the past week, I have not been able to eat or drink. I have severe abdominal pain to the left and lower right of the belly button. I was not able to walk. I have back problems too.

    September 19, 2013
  5. PA said:

    I have been diagnosed with common bile duct enlargement. For the past one month, I have not been able to eat or drink. I have severe abdominal pain. I was not able to walk. I have back problems too. The pain subsided but re -occurred when I ate Chicken. No stones were seen in ultra sound. Gall bladder wall was swollen to 11 cms but has come down to 5 cms now. LFT CBC was normal.

    January 1, 2014
    • PUP said:

      There are several reasons for common bile duct enlargement. One of the reasons is obstruction of bile duct due to gall stones. However, a cyst or a tumor can also obstruct a bile duct. If the symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend further investigations such as an MRI of liver. Also a test called ERCP may be required to diagnose the cause and simultaneously rectify the condition. You have to talk to your doctor if further tests are necessary besides the tests that are done.

      January 1, 2014
  6. Mary said:

    I have been diagnosed with an enlarged pancreatic duct and enlarged common bile duct. I have always been very bloated. My skin itches, but no discoloration of stools, urine or skin. My CBC is normal, but my sodium level is only 126.

    January 15, 2017

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