What is biliary stricture?

Biliary stricture, also known as bile duct stricture, occurs when the bile duct gets smaller or narrower. The bile duct is the tube that takes bile from the liver to the small bowel. Bile is a substance that helps in digestion of fatty food and excreting (getting rid of) harmful substances.

When the bile duct becomes narrow, it makes it difficult for bile to pass from the liver to the small bowel. This reduction in bile to the small bowel leads to difficulty in digesting food, especially fatty food. When bile is not excreted, it builds up in the body and causes several symptoms.

Patients with mild biliary strictures may not show any symptoms, but the stricture causes abnormalities in the blood and a rise in some of the liver enzymes. When the stricture becomes more pronounced, symptoms start to develop.

What causes biliary stricture?

Biliary strictures can be caused by:

What are the symptoms of biliary stricture?

  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Chills and fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Itching
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Gray or pale-colored stools

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/25/2019.


  • Radiopaedia. Bile duct stricture. Accessed 1/28/2019.
  • Singh A, Gelrud A, Agarwal B. Biliary strictures: diagnostic considerations and approach. Gastroenterology Report, Volume 3, Issue 1, 1 February 2015, Pages 22–31. https://doi.org/10.1093/gastro/gou072
  • Shanbhogue AKS, Tirumani SH, Prasad SR, et al. Benign Biliary Strictures: A Current Comprehensive Clinical and Imaging Review. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2011;197: W295-W306. 10.2214/AJR.10.6002

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