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Diagnostics & Testing

Bile Duct Exploration

What is common bile duct (CBD) exploration?

The CBD is a tube connecting the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas to the small intestine that helps deliver fluid to aid in digestion.

The CBD exploration is a procedure used to see if a stone or some obstruction is blocking the flow of bile from your liver and gallbladder to your intestine.


When is it used?

If a stone or obstruction is blocking the CBD, bile can back up into the liver causing jaundice. Jaundice is when the skin and white of the eyes become yellow.

The CBD might become infected and require emergency surgery if the stone or blockage is not removed. This procedure can be done during the removal of the gall bladder.

An alternative would be an ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram) or not having treatment. You should discuss these options with your doctor.

Preparation for CBD exploration

  • Eat light the day before
  • Have nothing to eat or drink after midnight
  • Take only medicines as instructed the morning of surgery

During the procedure

  • General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and puts you into a deep sleep, so you will feel no pain.
  • The doctor will make a small incision in the abdomen, locate the CBD, and inject a dye into the duct. Your doctor will then take an X-ray, which will show where the stone or obstruction is located.
  • If stones are found, the doctor will make a cut into the duct and remove them.
  • A tube might be inserted into the duct and out the skin to drain bile into a bag.
  • The bag will remain in place anywhere from seven days to many weeks.
  • The doctor might repeat the dye procedure before removing your tube.

Post operation instructions

You will be required to stay in the hospital for one to four days. You will also be asked to avoid strenuous activity for four to six days, and will require a follow-up visit with your doctor.

Benefits of CBD exploration

The surgery should alleviate your discomfort and will decrease the chance of infection and jaundice.


As with any surgery there are risks, although minimal:

  • Complications of general anesthesia
  • Swelling or scarring of the duct
  • Bile leak
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Call the doctor if

Immediately call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased abdominal pain
  • Soreness, redness, warmth, or drainage around the wound
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/26/2012...#6901