The liver produces bile, a greenish yellow, thick, sticky fluid. Bile aids digestion by making cholesterol, fats, and fat-soluble vitamins easier to absorb from the intestine. Bile also helps eliminate certain waste products (mainly bilirubin and excess cholesterol) and by-products of drugs from the body.
The biliary tract Gallbladder and Biliary Tract The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped, muscular storage sac that holds bile and is interconnected to the liver by ducts known as the biliary tract. (See also Overview of the Liver and Gallbladder... read more consists of small tubes (ducts) that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and then to the small intestine. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located beneath the liver. It stores bile. When bile is needed, as when people eat, the gallbladder contracts, pushing bile through the bile ducts into the small intestine.
View of the Liver, Bile Ducts, and Gallbladder
The flow of bile can be blocked by the following:
Injury to the bile ducts during gallbladder surgery
Narrowing of the bile ducts caused by factors such as AIDS-related infections Narrowing of the Bile Ducts Due to AIDS People with AIDS tend to develop certain unusual infections because their immune system is weakened. Such infections are called opportunistic infections because they take advantage of a weakened... read more and primary sclerosing cholangitis Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Primary sclerosing cholangitis is inflammation with progressive scarring and narrowing of the bile ducts in and outside the liver. Eventually, the ducts become blocked and then obliterated.... read more
Disorders of the pancreas, which can narrow the bile ducts as they pass through the pancreas
Tumors in the pancreas Pancreatic Cancer Smoking, chronic pancreatitis, obesity, and exposure to certain chemicals are risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice, and vomiting are some typical symptoms... read more , gallbladder, or bile ducts Tumors of the Bile Ducts and Gallbladder Tumors, both noncancerous and cancerous, within the bile ducts or gallbladder are rare. Ultrasonography or MRI/MRCP can usually detect a tumor in the bile ducts or gallbladder. These cancers... read more
If the bile ducts are blocked, the gallbladder may become inflamed (cholecystitis Cholecystitis Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder, usually resulting from a gallstone blocking the cystic duct. Typically, people have abdominal pain, fever, and nausea. Ultrasonography can usually... read more ).
Biliary pain without gallstones Biliary Pain Without Gallstones Pain similar to that caused by gallstones sometimes occurs in people who have no gallstones or who have gallstones too small to be detected by ultrasonography. It is called acalculous biliary... read more (acalculous biliary pain) can also occur.
The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD): A reliable resource that helps people with gastrointestinal disorders manage their health.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK): Comprehensive information on how the digestive system works and links to related topics, such as research and treatment options.