Merck Manual

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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision May 2020
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What is the gallbladder?

Your gallbladder is a small sac located on the right side of your belly just below your ribs. It's the organ where your body stores bile before it goes into your intestine. Bile is a digestive fluid that helps break down fats in food.

View of the Liver and Gallbladder

What does the gallbladder do?

Your gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid that is made by your liver.

  • When you eat something, your body signals the gallbladder to contract and push bile into your intestines

Because bile can also flow directly from your liver into your intestines, you can live without your gallbladder.

What is bile?

Bile is a thick greenish-yellow digestive fluid. Bile flows through tubes in your liver called bile ducts. Then bile flows out of your liver through a large bile duct. Bile can go directly into your intestines or into your gallbladder to be stored.

Bile in your intestines helps you absorb the fats that you eat.

What can go wrong with the gallbladder?

The main problems you can have with your gallbladder are:

Gallstones are clumps of solid material that can form in your gallbladder and block the flow of bile. If they cause symptoms, doctors can remove the stones and your gallbladder.

Sometimes your gallbladder can get inflamed without gallstones.

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