Bile duct leakage can be a complication of gallbladder or liver surgery. Bile leaks are more likely from laparoscopic cholecystectomies than from open, invasive gallbladder removal procedures. Yet, they can happen from both. They are a serious surgery complication that must be addressed immediately to prevent further medical problems. Bile duct leakage from bile duct cancer is also possible.
In some cases, the patient has no signs or symptoms of bile leakage. For example, a biloma (bile collection in the stomach area that is encapsulated) might not manifest symptoms for months it develops. This does not mean the biloma is not causing problems. Some patients are symptom-free for three months before a bile duct leakage is diagnosed.
Within a few days or weeks of surgery, you might experience symptoms related to bile duct leakage. Fatigue, abdominal pain and discomfort, fever, vomiting, and feeling that you are not recovering well from the surgery could be early warnings of bile duct leakage.
As a bile duct leakage continues, more advanced symptoms can occur, such as skin yellowing or jaundice. Fevers might develop or worsen. Advanced symptoms can be caused by scarring from surgery. Peritonitis is when there is inflammation of bowel tissue.
Sepsis can occur if the bile is entering the stomach and making the body toxic. This sometimes-fatal situation might require more surgery. Difficulty breathing can also be a sign of bile duct leakage. The liver could stop functioning altogether from a bile leak, requiring immediate attention to prevent death.