Pathophysiology of Jaundice

The causes of jaundice can be divided into pre-hepatic, hepatic, and post hepatic aetiologies.


Any process that causes an increased rate of RBC breakdown (haemolysis) and saturation of enzymes can cause jaundice.

  • Malaria
  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • Spherocytosis
  • Glucose-6-PD deficiency
  • Haemolytic uraemic syndrome
  • Transfusion reaction


Any process which effects liver function can cause jaundice.

  • Drugs/toxins: Alcohol, paracetamol, anabolic steroids, Isoniazid, amanita toxin, chlorpromazine, flucloxacillin, halothane
  • Infections: Viral hepatitis, infectious mononucleosis, leptospirosis
  • Metabolic: Wilsons disease, Reyes disease, haemochromatosis
  • Granulomatous: Wegners granulomatosis, lymphoma, Sarcoidosis, mycobacterial
  • Genetic: Gilberts syndrome, Crigler-Najjar syndrome, Dubin-Johnson Syndrome
  • Other: Fatty liver of pregnancy, primary biliary cirrhosis, amyloidosis, metastatic carcinoma, neonatal jaundice


Any process which causes post-hepatic obstruction can cause jaundice.

  • Drugs amitriptyline, prochlorperazine, verapamil, co-amoxiclav
  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatic carcinoma
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Biliary atresia
  • Bile duct strictures
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic pseudocyst

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