The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped muscular sack that acts as a storage tank for bile. The bile is made in the liver by liver cells and is sent through tiny ducts or canals to the duodenum (small intestine) and to the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores the bile to have it available in larger quantities for secretion when a meal is eaten. The ingestion of food and especially fats cause the release of a hormone, cholecystokinin, (CCK) which in turn signals the relaxation of the valve at the end of the common bile duct (the sphincter of oddi) which lets the bile enter the small intestine. It also signals the contraction of the gallbladder which squirts the concentrated liquid bile into the small intestine where it helps with the emulsification or breakdown of fats in the meal.
PICTURE OF GALLBLADDER
WHERE IS THE GALLBLADDER
Many people do not know where the gallbladder is located until it screams at them. Then they never forget. The gallbladder is located behind the liver on the right side of the rib cage. It hits up against the under-surface of the liver. Pain in this region is common with gallbladder problems.
PICTURE OF GALLBLADDER LOCATION
Although the location of the gallbladder can be pinpointed to a spot in the upper abdomen, it is only one aspect of the bile system or the biliary tree that begins in the liver with bile production. Bile is made in liver cells or hepatocytes all throughout the liver. It is collected by bile canaliculi which are very tiny canals or ducts in the liver which branch out into larger ducts and then dump into the common bile duct. This is how it gets termed biliary tree, from the similarity to the branching of a tree.
COMMON BILE DUCT
There is a bile duct from the liver to the small intestine which
is joined by a duct from the gallbladder and from the pancreas. This main duct is called the common bile duct. It is common to the liver, gallbladder and farther down line, to the pancreas as well. When someone refers to "the" bile duct, they are usually referring to the common bile duct. It's function is to allow for the transportation of bile and digestive enzymes. The size of the common bile duct when measured via ultrasound is determined to be approximately up to 6mm.
The bile duct from the gallbladder sac itself allows the flow of bile to and from the gallbladder. Bile moves in both directions into and out of the gallbladder through this cystic duct. This latter duct joins with a duct from the pancreas on its way to the small intestine carrying pancreatic enzymes also used for digestion.
A healthy liver produces about a quart to a quart and a half of bile daily. Bile is a bitter, yellow fluid. It can consist of cholesterol, lecithin, calcium, bile salts, acids and waste materials among other things. When the bile salts and cholesterol get out of balance with each other (to state it simply) gallstones can form.
BILE SALTS and BILE ACID
The terms bile salts and bile acid are often used interchangeably for the word bile. Technically, bile salts and bile acid are components of the bile and are the active parts of the bile substance.
GALLBLADDER AND BILE
So what is the relationship of the gallbladder and bile? The gallbladder is the receptacle for bile; bile is the substance that performs the functions the body needs. However, the gallbladder also contributes important functions in maintaining proper bile flow and in making the bile more efficient. See Gallbladder Function for more details.
WHAT GOES WRONG?
To understand gallbladder pathology or what goes wrong with your gallbladder click on Gallbladder Disease >