• Choledochal Cysts

    Choledochal cysts are a congenital condition causing the bile duct to develop abnormally in infants and young children. Bile secreted from the liver will gather in the abnormal growth, applying pressure on the duct. Eventually, the amount of bile secreted will be reduced and potentially blocked.

    There are five different types of cysts, categorized by the location of the cyst on the bile duct. They are:

    • Type I – an abnormal dilation of the duct connecting the liver to the small intestine. This is the most common type
    • Type II – a growth off of the bile duct
    • Type III – a cyst located in the duodenal wall at the top of the small intestines
    • Type IV – swellings of tracts inside and outside of the liver
    • Type V – multiple cysts forming exclusively within the liver (most rare, also known as Caroli’s disease)

    The condition itself is rare, as only 1 in 150,000 develop choledochal cysts. Girls are much more likely to develop the cysts, as they account for up to approximately 80 percent of the reported cases.


    No known cause for choledochal cysts has been discovered, but research indicates they are caused by an irregular connection between the pancreatic and hepatic ducts.


    The time it takes for symptoms to present themselves depends on the size of the cyst and the amount of time it takes for it to impact liver function. While the cysts have been developing since birth, health problems may not develop in some patients until they become adults.

    Common symptoms for choledochal cysts include:

    • Abdominal pain near the liver
    • Jaundice
    • Nausea
    • Fever
    • Pancreatitis

    Testing and Diagnosis

    Choledochal cysts are typically diagnosed through ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans or an endoscopic or percutaneous cholangiography. Some doctors may be able to diagnose the condition by a direct examination of the patient’s abdominal area.


    To treat symptoms, doctors may prescribe antibiotics. However, the primary treatment for choledochal cysts is surgery. During the procedure, doctors will remove the bile duct and replace it with a piece of intestine.