The yellow color of the eyes and skin is called jaundice. Jaundice is often the result of a variety of liver diseases, including hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer, obstruction of the bile duct due to stones, malignancy or other events. Jaundice can also be caused by certain medications and hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells).
When the bile duct is blocked, the bile builds up in the liver and increases the levels of bilirubin in the blood. This way the patient will show the characteristic yellow color on the skin and eyes. As the bilirubin in the blood increases, the patient may experience itching, dark urine, and clay- colored stools.
Stents are usually placed in the bile ducts with an endoscopic procedure called ERCP. They are small tubes, plastic or metal, which are placed at the point of blockage and allow the bile to drain. They are manufactured by various companies and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Plastic stents are often used and can be removed if needed. Metal stents are larger and some can be removed, while others are permanent.
All stents can be blocked sometime after their placement. If this happens, there is a risk of biliary infection, a potentially serious condition called cholangitis. Signs and symptoms of cholangitis include: high fever, chills, jaundice, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea or vomiting. This condition is potentially serious and should be treated immediately with antibiotics and possibly a new endoscopic procedure to restore bile drainage.