Dealing with jaundice
If jaundice is caused by an infection, antibiotics may help. If it’s caused by a tumour, treatment to remove or shrink the cancer may be recommended.
Your doctors may suggest putting in a stent – a small tube that holds the bile duct open. The stent can be put in using a procedure known as an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography). A thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is passed down your throat into your stomach and then into the first part of the small bowel – the duodenum. Once it’s in position, the doctor can see through the endoscope into the opening of the bile duct. A stent is then put inside the duct to keep it open.
Another procedure called PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography) may also be used to place a stent into the bile duct. It involves inserting a needle through the skin just below the ribcage. A fine guide wire is passed through the liver into the blockage. The stent is passed along this wire.
Sometimes a stent can become dislodged or blocked. The first sign of this is often the jaundice returning. If this happens, the stent can be replaced.
An alternative treatment to relieve the blockage is surgery to bypass the bile duct but this is only suitable for some people. In this procedure, the surgeon joins the gall bladder or bile duct to the bowel in an operation called a cholecystoenterostomy.
If it’s possible to unblock the bile duct, your symptoms should begin to improve. Sometimes, however, it’s not possible and symptoms will continue.
Itchy skin can often be the most troublesome symptom of jaundice. Medicines used to treat an itch caused by jaundice include prochlorperazine, colestyramine and antihistamine tablets.