Bile Ducts Definition

Channels that carry bile from liver to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the duodenum (first segment of the small intestine). The intrahepatic ducts are within the structure of the liver. They collect bile the liver secretes and transport it from the liver. The extrahepatic ducts are outside the liver and route bile to the gallbladder and duodenum. They are

  • the hepatic duct, which carries bile out of the liver to the cystic duct
  • the cystic duct, which carries bile from the hepatic duct to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the common duct
  • the common duct, which carries bile into the duodenum

The health conditions most likely to involve the bile ducts are biliary atresia, a congenital anomaly in which the bile ducts form incompletely or not at all, and ductal occlusion resulting from cholelithiasis, in which gallstones escape from the gallbladder and lodge in a bile duct, blocking the flow of bile and causing pain. Cancer of the bile ducts, called cholangiocarcinoma, occurs though is rare.

For further discussion of the bile ducts within the context of gastrointestinal structure and function, please see the overview section “The Gastrointestinal System.”


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