Gallbladder

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile. It is attached to your digestive system by a system of hollow ducts called the biliary tree.

The gallbladder sits in an indenture underneath the right lobe of the liver. It is about one inch wide and three inches long, and tapered at one end where it connects to the cystic duct. It is a muscular organ that contracts when bile is needed, and forces the enzyme through the cystic duct.

An illustration of a human gallbladder and biliary tree.

There are three main parts of the gallbladder:

  • fundus — the large end that stores bile juices
  • body — not as large and begins to taper
  • neck — tapers further and connects to the cystic duct

The connection to the cystic duct is known as Hartmann’s Pouch. When gallstones get stuck, it is usually at this juncture.

The gallbladder creates a reservoir for bile, also known as gall, hence the name gallbladder. The bile that is stored here is actually manufactured in the liver. The bladder itself is not very large; however, bile is a strong enzyme.

What does the gallbladder do?

Fat is difficult to digest. It resists being broken down into usable energy. Bile is a strong enzyme that assists in breaking fats down. When the food you eat contains fat, the stomach and duodenum secrete a substance that stimulates the gallbladder to contract, thereby forcing bile into the digestive tract. Bile emulsifies the fat, making it available for energy production.

Why is the gallbladder removed?

The gallbladder stores bile juices and strong enzymes that in some instances can create stones. These stones irritate the lining of the gallbladder, and sometime migrate through the biliary tree. Most of the times this occurs without incident; however, stones can become lodged in the biliary tract. This causes severe pain.

Can I survive without my gallbladder?

Gallbladder removal is a common medical procedure that has little effect on the lifestyle. You may experience some discomfort if you eat a diet high in fat. Remember that the gallbladder stores and secretes enzymes for the purpose of breaking down fat so that it may be used as energy for the body. Your doctor will have more information about any lifestyle changes you may wish to consider.