Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) Procedure

Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage Ptbd

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Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage Ptbd

PTBD procedure is significant in diagnosing and treating blockages or complications in the bile ducts. The study by Jagadeesan et al., 2019 showed 87% success of the technique among 932 patients. This higher efficiency rate highlights the reliability of the treatment.

PTBD involves draining fluid or bile, relieving pressure, and delivering medication directly through intravenous technique. Want to know if this is ideal for overcoming your biliary drainage problem? Then, let's explore the process, its benefits, complications, and more.

Procedure Name Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage
Alternative Name PTBD
Conditions Treated

Gallstones, Tumours, Pancreatic cancer, Biliary strictures, Pancreatic pseudocyst, Malignant biliary cancers, Chronic pancreatitis

Benefits of Procedure

Less invasive than other biliary procedures, Faster recovery time, More accurate diagnosis, Improved prognosis, Lower risk of complications

Treated By Interventional Radiologist

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What is Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) Procedure?

The PTBD full form in medical terminologies is Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage. It is a technique to drain the fluid or bile from the gallbladder, pancreas, and bile ducts by inserting a tube through the skin and into the biliary system. Doctors prescribe the process for conditions like jaundice, bile duct stones, pancreatitis, and bile leakage. 

Often, the PTBD is accompanied by stent placement. After flushing the biliary fluids, stenting is carried out. It aims at preventing the chances of blockage in the ducts. Integrating such comprehensive techniques overcomes the risk of fatal complications after the surgery.

However, it is important to consult the doctor to understand whether or not the patient's condition requires stenting with the procedure.

what is ptbd

The Anatomy of the Hepatobiliary System

The biliary system produces, stores, and secretes bile. It breaks down fats in the intestine and contains water, electrolytes, cholesterol, bile acids, and pigments.

The main organs of the biliary system include:

  1. Liver: The largest organ in the biliary system is the liver. It creates bile, which is necessary for the small intestine to properly break down and absorb lipids. Hepatocytes are specialised cells found in the liver that produce bile by breaking down red blood cells.
  2. Gallbladder: It is a tiny, elongated, pear-shaped organ situated below the liver. Bile is concentrated and stored here. The gallbladder contracts to discharge it into the small intestine when required.
  3. Hepatic Ducts: Bile is collected and stored in these ducts. The right and left ducts combine to form the common hepatic duct for carrying it from the liver. 
  4. Cystic Duct: It connects the gallbladder to the common hepatic duct. Together, they form the common bile duct.
  5. Common Bile Duct: It is a tube formed by the union of the common hepatic duct and the cystic duct. It carries bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine (duodenum).
  6. Sphincter of Oddi: This muscular valve controls the release of bile into the duodenum. It regulates the flow of bile and pancreatic juices into the digestive tract.
  7. Pancreatic Duct: Running alongside the common bile duct, it carries pancreatic juices (containing digestive enzymes) into the duodenum. The common bile and pancreatic ducts often share a joint opening into the duodenum called the Ampulla of Vater.
  8. Duodenum: The first part of the small intestine where bile and pancreatic enzymes facilitate digestion and absorption of nutrients, especially fats.
  9. Small Intestine: Bile released into the duodenum continues to work throughout the small intestine to emulsify fats and facilitate their absorption.

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Signs Indicating the Need of PTBD

Patients with biliary complications are generally prescribed the PTBD treatment. This medical procedure is highly technical and requires the appropriate qualifications and experience to be performed. 

  1. Gallstones: When the bile ducts are blocked, usually by gallstones or tumours, the procedure can help relieve the obstruction and restore the normal flow of bile.
  2. Jaundice: If jaundice occurs due to blockage in the bile ducts, it can be used to bypass the obstruction and allow the proper drainage of bile.
  3. Biliary Strictures: Narrowing the bile ducts can cause problems with bile flow. The surgery can be used to widen the obstruction.

Consultation with a doctor is necessary before considering the procedure. Every patient's needs differ significantly, necessitating individual preferences.

Conditions treated with PTBD Procedure

Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) diagnoses and treats specific conditions related to the biliary system. It is mainly used to treat conditions that are causing blockages or obstructions in the biliary tree, such as:

  1. Bile Duct Infection: Bile duct infection is uncommon but potentially dangerous. The process can be used to flush out the infection and provide relief.
  2. Chronic Pancreatitis: The surgery can treat chronic pancreatitis, which causes pancreas inflammation.
  3. Pancreatic Pseudocyst: If a cyst forms in the pancreas, PTBD drains and relieves pressure. A radiologist usually performs the procedure.
  4. Tumours: The technique can help diagnose and remove abnormal growths in the biliary system. These can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Thus, the complications associated with the treatment vary from cancer to cancer.
  5. Cancer: Treatment can relieve pressure and reduce discomfort due to malignant pancreatic and biliary cancer complications.

Benefits of PTBD Surgery

When choosing a surgical treatment, everyone wonders if it is really worth it. PTBD is a highly beneficial technique. The primary advantages associated with PTBD are listed below.

  1. Accurate Diagnosis: PTBD can help provide a more accurate diagnosis of biliary diseases and conditions. It is especially helpful in determining the cause of bile duct blockage or narrowing.
  2. Less Invasive: It is minimally invasive and only requires a small incision in the skin. It can be performed under local anaesthesia. Thus reducing the discomfort experienced during and after the procedure.
  3. Faster Recovery Time: Since it is a minimally invasive procedure, it requires less time for recovery. Patients can often return to their normal routine in 6-10 weeks. Although it depends on the patient's condition.
  4. Improved Prognosis: It can also improve the life expectancy for patients who suffer from biliary diseases, as it can help to diagnose and treat the condition quickly.
  5. Lower Risk of Complications: The technique has a lower risk of complications than other biliary procedures, as there is less risk of infection or bleeding due to the nature of the incision.

What to expect before and on the day of the PTBD Procedure?

Before the PTBD Procedure

Every procedure includes a basic protocol prior to the surgery. Let's take a look at the prerequisites of PTBD surgery.

Before PTBD procedure

On the day of the PTBD procedure

Patients must also know what they can expect on the day of the surgery. The table below summarises standard preoperative factors performed on the day of the surgery.

PTBD Procedure Steps

Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage procedure usually involves the administration of local anaesthesia for sedation. It is an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient is generally released within 24 hours. 

Here are the steps of the procedure broken down into easy-to-understand bullets:

  1. Catheter Inserted: The doctor will insert a tube into the bile duct with an X-ray or ultrasound guidance.
  2. Dye Administrated: A contrast agent is injected through the catheter to help guide the doctor. It is helpful to identify blockages or abnormalities in the bile ducts.
  3. Drain Placement: A tube is inserted into the catheter and attached to a bag. This system collects the bile secreted through the PTBD bag (drainage). 
  4. Drain and Catheter Removal: Drain and PTBD tubes stay for 2-4 days and are removed after completion. The doctor will remove it, allowing your bile ducts to start functioning normally again.

After the PTBD Procedure

It is natural for an individual to have some expectations and curiosity regarding the recovery after undergoing PTBD surgery. Usually, a patient can expect the recovery period to last between 6-10 weeks. However, the rate and success of the recovery are significantly influenced by the patient's condition and the complexities of the treatment.

In Hospital Recovery

Healthcare professionals are responsible for providing thorough and effective care even after the completion of the procedure. Thus, some in-hospital recovery factors are used to detect and prevent potential complications.

  1. Abdominal Pain Management: The bile drains and buildup during the process can cause discomfort for the patients. Medications will be administered as needed to ensure comfort during recovery.
  2. Nausea Regulation: Being associated with the biliary system, the procedure can lead to uneasiness and vomiting among the patients.
  3. Physical Evaluation: The recovery process will involve monitoring vital signs and regular assessments of the patient's abdominal and liver areas. 
  4. Discharge: The patient must arrange for a friend or family member to drive home after the PTBD procedure, as the patient may experience some drowsiness from the anaesthesia.

Following the doctor's instructions for rest and the prescription is essential during recovery. However, some may need to stay in the hospital for another day or two if they experience complications.

In-hospital recovery

At-Home Recovery

The patient must follow the doctor's instructions and recommendations after discharge. This ensures a speedy and effective recovery after the surgery.

  1. Drink water: Water helps flush out toxins and aids digestion. Thus, it is recommended to consume at least 4-6 glasses of water every day.
  2. Diet: Eating properly and avoiding processed food will help you in the long run.
  3. Avoiding Physical Activities: The patient must avoid strenuous workouts as they will reduce the recovery speed. 
  4. Medications: After the procedure, the patient must take the prescribed medications as instructed by the doctor.

At-home recovery

First Follow-Up Appointment

A patient's overall recovery and progress are evaluated through follow-up consultations. For PTBD, usually, the doctors schedule the first post-operative consultation between 30-45 days.

  1. Post-Surgical Examination: The doctor will check your bile ducts and may perform imaging tests to check for complications.
  2. Medication Prescription: The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to help prevent infection.
  3. Diet Review: You may also be asked to follow a special diet after the procedure.

Risks of PTBD

As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications associated with the procedure. These include:

  1. Bleeding: It is a common complication associated with surgery. It may occur after biliary drainage placement due to the proximity of hepatic vasculature to the bile ducts.
  2. High Fever: Some patients experience heightened body temperature (above 100 Celsius) with chills and body aches. This is managed initially by administering medications and evaluating signs of infection.
  3. Infection: Although the procedure employs strict safety and antibacterial protocols. Potential inflammation may occur in the skin or bile ducts. In addition, some patients might have an allergic reaction to contrast media.
  4. Bile leakage: It can occur in the peritoneum, causing bile peritonitis. Or around the catheter, leading to skin breakdown.
  5. Diarrhoea: An uncommon risk associated with biliary drainage is diarrhoea. It can be regulated through fibre intake and medications.

Risks of Delayed PTBD Surgery

If one delays the PTBD procedure, they may be at risk of acquiring severe complications like:

  1. Biliary peritonitis: Bile draining into the abdomen or out of the stomach wall due to the puncture wound during the surgery.
  2. Respiratory complications: It is a rare complication associated with the bile fluid buildup in the lung or its lining. This can happen due to duct obstruction after the surgery.
  3. Abscess formation: The onset of infection can be prevented through antibiotics. However, if it is not managed or is unresponsive to the medications. Then, it can lead to abscess (pus) formation.
  4. Sepsis: It is the rarest and most fatal complication after the surgery. After treatment, prolonged and unmanaged infection leads to organ failure or death (sepsis).

Estimated PTBD Cost

Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) procedure cost in India ranges from ₹60,000 to ₹80,000. The overall expense of the procedure can differ based on various factors like the patient's condition, hospital, treatment modality and complexities, and more.

Procedure Name

Cost Value

Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) Procedure

₹ 60,000 to ₹ 80,000


PTBD procedure provides an ideal and efficient solution to biliary system diseases to promote a better quality of life. Although it is important to gain knowledge about the process, complications, and cost to make well-informed decisions. 

At HexaHealth, we will help you navigate the complexities of the procedures. Our experts will offer you all the necessary information to make a well-informed decision. Contact us today to get treated by our highly efficient team of doctors. To get assistance at all steps of your health journey. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

PTBD medical abbreviation stands for Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage. It is a procedure which helps in expelling excessive biliary fluid or drain. It utilises a specialised drainage bag and catheter during the procedure.


During the PTBD procedure, a small incision is made in the patient's chest. A tube is inserted into the bile duct with X-ray or ultrasound guidance. By inflating a balloon at the end of the tube, bile flow into the stomach is blocked, preventing nausea and vomiting.


The PTBD procedure can take some time for execution. Generally, the surgery lasts 1-2 Hours and is carried out under local anaesthesia.


There is always a risk of complications with any medical procedure, but PTBD is generally considered safe. Complications, including bleeding, infection, and damage to nearby organs, are rare.


No, PTBD is not permanent. It is a temporary procedure to relieve biliary obstruction until significant drainage is established.


The steps in a PTBD procedure are as follows:

  1. The area is prepped, and the patient is given local anaesthesia.
  2. A small incision is made in the back near the spine.
  3. A needle is inserted into the spinal cord, and a special dye is injected.
  4. X-rays are taken to see where the dye has spread.
  5. The needle is then used to place a catheter (thin tube) into the same space.
  6. This catheter injects liquid nitrogen or other freezing agents to destroy the tissue around the nerve root, causing pain.
  7. The catheter is removed, and the incision is closed with stitches or staples.

Potential complications can occur after PTBD, including liver damage, bile duct injury, pancreatitis, sepsis, and death.


It is a type of interventional procedure used to treat biliary tract diseases. It can treat conditions such as blockages, cancers, and infections of the bile ducts. Sometimes, the surgery is extended to PTBD & stenting radiology. This means the placement of stents helps prevent the ducts from getting blocked and causing future complications.


A doctor prescribes blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound, etc., depending on the patient's symptoms and condition. The cost of these tests can further vary due to multiple aspects. However, the overall cost of PTBD, including tests, ranges from ₹60000 to ₹80000.


The answer will depend on the patient completely. The drain is removed in 6-10 weeks for standard cases and issues. However, the PTBD bag can stay for years or even lifelong in some chronic conditions.


In most cases, biliary drains are not painful. However, some patients may experience discomfort or pain if the drain is incorrectly placed.


Bile is usually odourless, but the drainage from a biliary drain can be quite smelly. This is because the drainage contains bacteria and other wastes. Keeping the area around the drain clean and dry is essential, as this can help reduce any odours that might be present.


Catheter insertion or removal in PTBD can cause discomfort to the patients. Although administering anaesthesia before this step can alleviate or minimise the pain.


The patient is given antibiotics during PTBD to eliminate infection and prevent sepsis caused by gram positive and negative bacteria.


Flushing a biliary drain at least once a day with an antiseptic solution is recommended. This helps keep the area around the drain free of infection and helps ensure the drain is functioning properly. It is essential to follow the instructions given by your doctor when flushing the drain.


It is generally not recommended to shower with a biliary drain in place. This is because the water can cause bacterial buildup and increase your risk of infection. If you need to shower, using a waterproof dressing over the drain is best.


When bile cannot drain, it causes pressure buildup in the liver and biliary system. This can lead to inflammation and problems like abdominal pain, jaundice, fever, and chills. Treatment involves removing the blockage, reducing pressure with a stent or procedure, and using medications.


No, a biliary drain is not considered a surgical wound. However, keeping the area around the drain clean and dry is essential to reduce the risk of infection. It is also necessary to follow your doctor's instructions regarding care for the drain.


Biliary drains can leak for various reasons, including blockages in the drain or bile ducts. It is essential to follow the instructions given by your doctor when flushing the drain and inspecting it for any signs of leakage. If you notice a leak, contact your doctor immediately.


When discussing PTBD vs ERCP, it is important to know that both techniques focus on the biliary obstructions and complications. The procedures for PTBD and ERCP vary. ERCP is less invasive with limited bleeding risk, while PTBD is for patients who cannot be treated with ERCP. Consult your doctor to determine the best treatment for your condition.



All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.

  1. Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (Ptbd) [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 17]. link
  2. Bumrungrad International Hospital. Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) | Bumrungrad [Internet]. link
  3. Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage - What You Need to Know [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 17]. link
  4. Percutaneous Transhepatic Biliary Drainage (PTBD) PERCUTANEOUS TRANSHEPATIC BILIARY DRAINAGE (PTBD) [Internet]. link
  5. Mocan T, Horhat A, Mois E, Graur F, Tefas C, Craciun R, et al. Endoscopic or percutaneous biliary drainage in hilar cholangiocarcinoma: When and how? World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology [Internet]. 2021 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Oct 17];13(12):2050–63. link
  6. Sha J, Dong Y, Niu H. A prospective study of risk factors for in-hospital mortality in patients with malignant obstructive jaundice undergoing percutaneous biliary drainage. Medicine. 2019 Apr;98(15)


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