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The Biliary System

The Biliary System and the Gallbladder – An Introduction

The bilary system, which includes the gallbladder, as well the liver and pancreas, forms part of the body’s digestive system which is responsible for nutrient absorption and waste disposal.

The digestive system can be affected by a range of acute (short term) and chronic (longer term) diseases or conditions. In America, for example, it has been estimated that more than 100 million visits to doctors’ surgeries each year are related to digestive disorders of one kind or another. The impact of these conditions on individuals varies from life threatening to embarrassing.

Over the years, research and understanding about these conditions has translated into improved prevention strategies, clinical practices, surgical procedures, medications and vaccines. Consultants at the Princess Grace Hospital are right at the forefront of this specialist and complex area.

The biliary system

This can be defined as the organs and ducts that create and store bile and release it into the duodenum (the small intestine). The biliary system includes the gallbladder and bile ducts inside and outside the liver. It is also known as the biliary, or bile, tract.

What does the biliary system do?

The system drains waste products from the liver into the duodenum (see diagram) and helps digestion through the controlled release of bile.

The gallbladder - what does it do?

The gallbladder is a small sac that lies underneath the right-hand side of the liver; its job is to concentrate and store the bile needed to digest fats in the small intestine (duodenum). However, unlike the liver it is not a vital or essential organ - you can live quite happily without one and still digest food. The gallbladder may need to be removed should you have biliary (gallbladder) cancer.

Find out more about the management of gallstones and the management of obstructive jaundice.