OBJECTIVE: to emphasize the importance of precocious diagnosis of extrahepatic biliary atresia and its direct relationship with the surgical re-establishment of the biliary flow before the second month of life. To discuss several complementary methods with the aim of selecting the ones that present better evidence, and avoiding delays in diagnosis and worse prognostic. SOURCE OF DATA: bibliographical researching regarding the period of 1985-2001, in Medline and MdConsult, using the following key words: neo-natal cholestasis; extrahepatic biliary atresia; neo-natal hepatitis. National and foreign articles were also selected based on the bibliography of consulted publications, and when necessary, for better understanding of the theme, opinions emitted in theses and textbooks were referred. SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS: the revision of the consulted bibliography led to the assumption that early diagnosis of EHBA and surgical treatment to reestablish the biliary flow up to 60 days of life are fundamental in order to achieve good results. Among several complementary methods of diagnosis, cholangiography by MR, US and the hepatic biopsy are the ones that provide the largest success indexes. CONCLUSIONS: the referring of patients bearers of EHBA to centers of references in Brazil, is still made tardily, probably due to lack of enlightenment of the doctors of primary attention, allied to bureaucratic and technological difficulties. The experience in England in relation to the "Yellow Alert" program, allowed that the number of children referred to surgical treatment before the 60 days of life increased significantly. Among the complementary methods, the MR cholangiography, ultrasonography and hepatic biopsy should be used, depending on the technological resources of the diagnosis units.
extrahepatic biliary atresia; neonatal cholestasis; neonatal hepatitis; diagnosis