Percutaneous biliary drainage and stenting is a minimally invasive technique utilized by interventional radiologists to treat bile duct obstructions resulting from cancer, gallstones, and strictures. This article will explore the definition, uses, and procedure of percutaneous biliary drainage and stenting, emphasizing the significant role of interventional radiology in the management of these conditions.

What is Percutaneous Biliary Drainage and Stenting?

Percutaneous biliary drainage is a minimally invasive procedure in which an interventional radiologist inserts a catheter through the skin and into the bile duct to drain accumulated bile. This procedure is often performed when a bile duct becomes obstructed, causing bile to build up in the liver and leading to symptoms such as jaundice, pain, and infection. Biliary stenting involves placing a small, tube-like device in the bile duct to hold it open and ensure continuous drainage.

Uses of Percutaneous Biliary Drainage and Stenting

Interventional radiologists perform percutaneous biliary drainage and stenting to treat a variety of bile duct obstructions, including:

  1. Cancer: Tumors in the liver, pancreas, or bile ducts can compress or invade the bile duct, causing obstruction.
  2. Gallstones: Large gallstones can sometimes migrate from the gallbladder into the bile duct, resulting in blockage.
  3. Strictures: Scarring or narrowing of the bile duct due to inflammation, infection, or previous surgery can lead to obstruction.

Percutaneous Biliary Drainage and Stenting Procedure

The percutaneous biliary drainage and stenting procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia and sedation. The process involves the following steps:

  1. Imaging: The interventional radiologist uses ultrasound or CT guidance to locate the obstructed bile duct and determine the best approach for drainage.
  2. Access: A small incision is made in the skin, and a needle is inserted through the liver and into the bile duct.
  3. Catheter placement: A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is guided through the needle and into the bile duct. Contrast dye may be injected, and X-ray imaging is used to confirm proper catheter positioning.
  4. Drainage: Once the catheter is in place, bile begins to drain either externally into a collection bag or internally into the small intestine, depending on the patient’s specific situation.
  5. Stenting (if needed): If the obstruction is due to a stricture or tumor, a stent may be placed in the bile duct to hold it open and maintain bile flow.
  6. Removal and follow-up: The catheter is typically left in place for a few days to several weeks, depending on the patient’s needs. The interventional radiologist will monitor the drainage and remove the catheter when appropriate.


Percutaneous biliary drainage and stenting is a minimally invasive, effective solution for patients with bile duct obstructions due to cancer, gallstones, and strictures. By utilizing advanced imaging techniques and specialized expertise, interventional radiologists can provide relief and improved quality of life for patients facing these challenging conditions. As medical technology continues to advance, percutaneous biliary drainage and stenting will remain a vital tool in the management of bile duct obstructions.