Unexpected Infant Death Due to Undiagnosed Biliary Atresia: A Case of Fatal Neglect

Francesco Ventura, Rosario Barranco, Francesca Buffelli, Ezio Fulcheri, Antonella Palmieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biliary atresia (BA) is a fatal condition resulting in the lack of effective biliary drainage leading invariably to liver failure and cirrhosis within a year, and it is often lethal within a few months in the absence of corrective surgery or liver transplantation. In fact, BA is the most common indication for pediatric liver transplantation.Herein, we present a rare case of unexpected infant death due to BA diagnosed only postmortem in a context of child neglect and carelessness on the part of the parents. It emerged from the clinical history that after a few months, the parents no longer took their daughter to any medical checkups despite the indications and express recommendations for follow-up. The autopsy revealed agenesis of the gallbladder with BA and complete disruption of the hepatic architecture and parenchyma from biliary cirrhosis. Histological examinations documented severe biliary cirrhosis from hypoplasia of the biliary ducts.The child neglect in this case proved fatal inasmuch as an early diagnosis by a pediatrician would have likely allowed appropriate surgical treatment, thus avoiding the untimely death of the child. We highlight the importance of educating and informing parents (especially the disadvantaged) in matters of health. At the same time, primary care physicians should closely monitor the conditions and development of infants so as to recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of BA, bearing in mind that a timely diagnosis and proper surgical treatment can save the lives of most of these children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-402
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Biliary Atresia/pathology
  • Child Abuse
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Gallbladder/abnormalities
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary/pathology


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