Definition and Function of Duodenum

The first segment of the small intestine, which receives partially digested and liquefied food (called chyme) from the stomach. The common bile duct ends in the duodenum, channeling bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Much of the activity of digestion takes place in the duodenum, where an abundance of digestive enzymes combines with the bile to further break down food particles into their core nutrient molecules.

Digestive content that leaves the duodenum for its journey through the remainder of the intestinal tract is almost watery because of the added digestive fluids. The remaining segments of the small intestine, the ileum and the jejunum, absorb the nutrient molecules that result from the duodenum’s activity. The duodenum is the most common site of the ulcers that characterize peptic ulcer disease.

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


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