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Biliary Atresia

What is biliary atresia? 

Biliary atresia is a rare but serious disease of the liver and bile ducts. Bile is a digestive fluid that is made in the liver and empties into the intestine to help digest food. It enters the stool (poop) giving it a darker colour. In biliary atresia, bile cannot get from the liver to the stool, causing acholic (pale in colour) stool. This blockage causes buildup of bile in the liver, which can damage it. Without treatment, this can lead to liver failure and eventually death. Treatment for biliary atresia is a surgery to allow bile to move from the liver to the intestines. 

How do you screen for biliary atresia? 

Parents are the primary screeners for biliary atresia. An Infant Stool Colour card (ISCC) is used to identify pale stools, which are often an early symptom. Parents are given the ISCC by the birth hospital or midwifery practice group. Parents will compare their child’s stool colour to the images on the ISCC during regular diaper changes for the first month of life. If they detect pale stool, they can contact Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO) using the contact methods shown on the card. When identification and treatment start early, babies with biliary atresia can have a better chance to grow and develop normally. 

Submitter responsibilities

  • ISCCs are available to hospitals and midwifery clinics and should be provided to all families with newborns in Ontario. ISCCs are available to order, free of charge, using the same distributor used for newborn screening dried blood spot collection cards. Click here for information on how to order ISCCs for your organization.
  • The ISCC itself is easy to follow. A brief explanation on its use should be provided to parents. Translated copies are available on our main website in various languages.
  • Educational resources are available to assist you and your teams in supporting families to screen for biliary atresia.

If you have any questions about biliary atresia screening, please don’t hesitate to contact us at:

Contact Us

Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
415 Smyth Road
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M8

Toll-Free: 1-877-627-8330
Local: (613) 738-3222
Fax: (613) 738-0853

Contact NSO

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