What are Congenital Anomalies of the Biliary Tract?

The biliary tract is a system of organs involved in the creation and secretion of a digestive fluid called bile. This system includes the liver (where bile is created), gallbladder (where bile is stored), and bile ducts (the small tubes through which bile is transported).

The term “congenital anomaly of the biliary tract” refers to any abnormality that is present in this system from birth. Anomalies can be cystic (characterized by the presence of abnormal, sac-like structures filled with pus or fluid) or non-cystic (characterized by an unusual structure of the organs themselves). Often, these anomalies are undetected until adulthood.

Some of the most common types of these anomalies are choledochal cysts, abnormal pancreaticobiliary junction, and aberrant biliary ducts. However, even those most common congenital anomalies are still relatively rare.

Patients experiencing unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms may be suffering from an undetected congenital anomaly of the biliary tract. At MedStar Health, the experts in our Pancreatic and Liver Diseases program can help to determine the cause of your symptoms and improve your gastrointestinal health.

What are the Symptoms of Congenital Anomalies of the Biliary Tract?

Symptoms of congenital anomalies of the biliary tract include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Cholangitis (an infection of the bile ducts)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Vomiting

How are Congenital Anomalies of the Biliary Tract Diagnosed?

Your diagnostic process will begin with a review of your symptoms and medical history.  

Imaging tests, including MRIs, CT scans, CT/PET scans, ultrasounds, and cholangiography scans, can help your doctor visually assess the structure and functioning of your digestive system. Cholangiography scans, including endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), involve injecting a contrast medium into your biliary tract before performing an x-ray. The contrast medium, a type of dye that is reactive to x-rays, allows your doctor to obtain a clearer view of organ formation, growths, and blockages.  

How are Congenital Anomalies of the Biliary Tract Treated?

Treatment for a congenital anomaly of the biliary tract will depend upon the specific type of anomaly diagnosed. In the case of a cystic anomaly, your doctor may surgically excise the cysts. In the case of a structural anomaly, surgery may be required to improve the flow and functioning of your biliary tract.

Even if an anomaly is not causing any symptoms, intervention may be needed to reduce associated risks, including infections and gallstones. Your MedStar Georgetown gastroenterologist will work with you to develop a care plan specific to your medical needs.

Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a pancreatic or biliary disease specialist, call our scheduling line or request an appointment below.

Phone: 202-444-8541


Get answers to commonly asked questions about the Gastroenterology department at MedStar Georgetown.