Bile acids are considered as extremely toxic at the high concentrations reached during bile duct obstruction, but each acid displays variable cytotoxic properties. This study investigates how biliary obstruction and restoration of bile flow interferes with urinary and circulating levels of 17 common bile acids. Bile acids (conjugated and unconjugated) were quantified by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry in serum and urine samples from 17 patients (8 men and 9 women) with biliary obstruction, before and after biliary stenting. Results were compared with serum concentrations measured in 40 age- and sex-paired control donors (20 men and 20 women). The total circulating bile acid concentration increases from 2.7 μM in control donors to 156.9 μM in untreated patients with biliary stenosis. Serum taurocholic and glycocholic acids exhibit 304- and 241-fold accumulations in patients with biliary obstruction compared to controls. The enrichment in chenodeoxycholic acid species reached a maximum of only 39-fold, while all secondary and 6α-hydroxylated species -except taurolithocholic acids - were either unchanged or significantly reduced. Stenting was efficient in restoring an almost normal circulating profile and in reducing urinary bile acids. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that biliary obstruction affects differentially the circulating and/or urinary levels of the various bile acids. The observation that the most drastically affected acids correspond to the less toxic species supports the activation of self-protecting mechanisms aimed at limiting the inherent toxicity of bile acids in face of biliary obstruction.