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Bile ducts and Gall Bladder

Within the liver, bile canaliculi within each hepatic cord communicate with bile ducts in the associated portal areas.  Those ducts form the the biliary tree whose main trunk exits the liver to approach the gall bladder.  For details, see:

T. A. Roskams, et al. (2004)  Nomenclature of the finer branches of the biliary tree...  Hepatology 39:1739-1745.

The gall bladder is a specialized portion of the bile duct. 
It is shaped like a small sack to store bile.  It has an absorptive epithelial lining to concentrate bile.  And it has a muscular wall to expel bile.

In its absorptive function, the gall bladder epithelium is a highly exaggerated striated duct, as is the functionally similar epithelium of the proximal tubule of the kidney.

Inflammation of the gall bladder is a fairly common problem (see Webpath). 

Historical note:  The Greek name for gall bladder is cholecyst, from chole, bile + cyst, bladder.  The Greek root chole also appears in the word choleric (hot-tempered, irascible, "bilious").  This word is derived from the ancient medical theory that temperament, along with all other aspects of health and disease, is governed by the balance among four humours, allied to the deeper philosophical belief in four elements of fire, water, air and earth.  The four humours are gall (= chole) or yellow bile from the gall bladder, black bile (= melan + chole) from the spleen, blood (Latin sanguis), and phlegm or mucus.  Along with choleric, the modern words melancholy (pensive, depressive), sanguine (confident, cheerful), and phlegmatic (sluggish, stolid) complete the set of terms for humour-based temperaments.

Without due care, a section of the gall bladder could easily be mistaken for one of small intestine.  Therefore, the gall bladder provides an excellent opportunity to observe how various details can serve to distinguish organs which otherwise appear superficially similar.   Since the gall bladder is really just a glandular duct, its structure is much simpler than that of intestine

Comments and questions:

SIUC / School of Medicine / Anatomy / David King
Last updated:  2 July 2023 / dgk