Structure and Functions (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The gallbladder is part of the digestive system. Bile originates in the liver then flows into the gallbladder through a system of ducts. Some bile flows directly into the small intestine, but the gallbladder collects and concentrates much of the bile. It then contracts and releases more bile into the small intestine as food is eaten. Bile helps break down the fats and neutralize the acids in the food. The organs and ducts that transport bile are collectively called the biliary system and include the gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, and the ducts connecting these organs.
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Disorders and Diseases (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Gallstones are a very common gallbladder problem. Two types of stones may form. Cholesterol stones are the most common type of gallstone, and they form when there is too much cholesterol in the bile. Pigment stones are less common, occurring only about 20 percent of the time; they are formed when there is too much bilirubin in the bile. Gallstones may be any size, ranging from stones that are tiny, like grains of sand, up to the size of a golf ball. When stones are small, they may form a type of “sludge” that affects the functioning of the gallbladder. If they are large, then they may move about and cause blockage of the ducts that drain the bile from the gallbladder into the digestive system, causing pain or a “gallbladder attack.” Stones may exit the gallbladder and block other areas of the digestive system, causing pain, infection, or organ damage. However, it is possible to have gallstones that cause no pain or problem at all.
Some risk factors for gallstones include being female (especially females who have been pregnant or have taken hormones), being overweight, losing weight quickly (such as with “crash” dieting), or having high blood cholesterol levels.
Common symptoms of gallstones include pain in the upper right abdomen (especially within thirty minutes after a fatty meal), nausea, vomiting, fever, indigestion, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or bloating. Stones blocking the common bile duct...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The gallbladder has been recognized throughout history as an important organ in the digestive process. It is one of the organs in the “four humors” system of medicine, which may have originated in Mesopotamia or Egypt but reached its height in the Greek system of medicine. In that system, the gallbladder was linked to the season of summer and the element of fire, and an overabundance of bile was thought to cause one to be bad-tempered or “choleric.” In traditional Chinese medicine, the gallbladder is thought to affect the quality and length of sleep.
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Clavien, Pierre-Alain, ed. Diseases of the Gallbladder and Bile Ducts: Diagnosis and Treatment. 2d ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
Kraus, J. The Etiology, Symptoms, and Treatment of Gall-Stones. BiblioLife, 2009.
Lack, Ernest E. Pathology of the Pancreas, Gallbladder, Extrahepatic Biliary Tract, and Ampullary Region. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Mitchell, George. Learn About Your Liver and Gallbladder. Dupage Digital, 2008.
PM Medical Health. Twenty-first Century Ultimate Medical Guide to Gallbladder and Bile Duct Disorders: Authoritative Clinical Information for Physicians and Patients. Progressive Management, 2009.
Thomas, Charles, and Clifton Fuller, eds. Biliary Tract and Gallbladder Cancer: Diagnosis and Therapy. Demos, 2008.
Thudichum, John Louis William. A Treatise on Gall-stones: Their Chemistry, Pathology, and Treatment. BiblioLife, 2009.
(The entire section is 107 words.)
Gallbladder (Encyclopedia of Nursing & Allied Health)
The gallbladder, an organ of the gastrointestinal system involved in the storage and concentration of bile, is shaped like a deflated balloon or pear, and lies on the surface of the right lobe of the liver.
The gallbladder is pear-shaped and generally about 3 in (7.60.2 cm) in length. It consists of three parts. The fundus is the closed, bottom portion of the gallbladder that borders the liver. The body is the largest section of the gallbladder. In adults, the gallbladder can hold between 0.67 and 1.69 fl oz (200 ml) of bile. The neck of the gallbladder is much narrower than the body and empties into the cystic duct.
The gallbladder acts like a storage tank for bile (a bitter, greenish yellow liquid composed in part of cholesterol, bile salts, and bile pigment). Bile is made in the liver and travels through the hepatic duct to be stored and concentrated in the gallbladder until the body needs it to help break down ingested fats. When the gallbladder receives a signal from cholecystokinin (a hormone) in the small intestine, it contracts and releases bile into the common bile duct, where it travels to the small intestine to help digest fats.
Role in human health
While the body can function normally without a gallbladder, this accessory organ of digestion is important to the proper digestion of fats.
Common diseases and disorders
One of the most common disorders of the gallbladder occurs when cholesterol mixes with bile and calcium, forming gallstones. Gallstones occur most frequently in middle-aged women, but they can also occur in people suffering from obesity, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or any other disease that results in increased levels of cholesterol. When the stones stay in the body of the gallbladder they generally cause no pain or other symptoms. However, if a stone travels out into the neck of the gallbladder or into one of the bile ducts, nausea, vomiting, and severe pain follow. The patient may also become jaundiced. Gallstones usually have to be removed surgically. In severe cases, the entire gallbladder must be removed.
Other diseases can also cause obstruction of the neck of the gallbladder, causing symptoms like those of gallstones.
Adenocarcinomany one of a large group of cancerous, epithelial cell tumors of the glands.
Biliary treelso referred to as biliary tract, it includes all of the parts associated with the passage of bile, beginning at the liver and ending at the opening of the bile duct into the small intestine.
Cholecystitiscute or chronic inflammation of the gallbladder.
Cholecystokininhe hormone manufactured in the lining of the small intestine that signals the gallbladder to release bile.
Cystic ducthe duct that allows passage of bile from the gallbladder to the common bile duct.
Crohn's disease, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), echinococcosis (infestation of the digestive system by tapeworms), and ascariasis (infestation of the digestive system by parasitic nematode worms) can all produce swellings that obstruct the gallbladder's neck.
Cholecystitis, or inflammation of the gallbladder, causes sharp, severe pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen. Cholecystitis causes fever, nausea, and vomiting; and, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.
Cancer that invades any portion of the biliary tree can interrupt or prevent the normal flow of bile and result in multiple complications. Two of the most common malignancies that occur in the biliary tract involve adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder itself or of the bile ducts that carry bile from the gallbladder.
Anatomy and Physiology. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation, 1998, pp.126-7.
Bray, John J., et al. Human Physiology. 4th ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Science, Inc., 1999, p. 495.
Higgins, Christopher. Understanding Laboratory Investigations. Malden, MA: Blackwell Science, Inc., 2000, p.162.
The Merck Manual, edited by Mark H. Beers, and Robert Berkow. 17th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999, pp. 400-1.
Wilson, Denise D. Nurse's Guide to Understanding Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1999, p. 306.
Ashmallala, Hani, et al. "Recurrent Cholangiocarcinoma: Negative Autopsy Results After Aggressive Management." South Medical Journal vol. 93, no. 6(2000): 603-605.
Susan Joanne Cadwallader