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What is the Hepatic Duct?

By Gayle R.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The liver is a vital organ found in humans and most other vertebrates. It has many functions, including detoxifying harmful substances in the blood, synthesizing proteins, and producing substances used in digestion. The word hepatic comes from the Greek term for liver and is present in medical terms that relate to this important organ. One such medical term is the hepatic duct, also called the common hepatic duct. It defines a duct, or small tube within the liver, that through a biliary network, carries bile from the liver to the small intestine to aid in digestion.

Bile is produced and secreted by the liver. It contains cholesterol and waste products, such as bilirubin and bile salts, which aid in the digestion of fats. Bile produced in the liver collects in bile ducts. The ducts that are inside the liver are called intrahepatic bile ducts and those ducts that extend outside the liver are called extrahepatic bile ducts.

Intrahepatic bile ducts in the left lobe of the liver drain into the left hepatic duct, and the bile ducts in the liver's right lobe, drain into the right hepatic duct. The common hepatic duct is formed when these two hepatic ducts converge to form one larger duct. This converged hepatic duct then joins the cystic duct, which carries bile to and from the gallbladder, to form the common bile duct. From the common bile duct, bile can either go directly into the small intestine, or may be temporarily stored in the gallbladder. Typically, about half the bile travels to the small intestine and half travels to the gall bladder.

When a person consumes a meal, the bile that is stored in the gall bladder is released into the cystic duct, where it travels to the common bile duct. The bile flows through this duct, which travels through the pancreas, joins with the pancreatic duct, and enters the small intestine. The bile and pancreatic enzymes that are released into the small intestine aid in the breakdown and digestion of the meal.

If any of the intrahepatic or extrahepatic bile ducts become constricted or blocked, serious health problems can result. Most of the problems result from the failure of bile to reach the small intestine and help the digestive process. Blockages or biliary obstruction can be caused by many factors, including liver disease, tumors, or trauma, but by far the most common type of biliary obstruction is caused by gall bladder stones.

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Discussion Comments
By anon952333 — On May 20, 2014

I had gallbladder disease with pain that was unbelievable. Afterward,I had a reaction to the drug I was given and it made me have bad dizzy spells for three weeks. Another week and a half went by without any dizziness or pain and that was nice. But all of a sudden, I got a pain in the middle of my back and I had to get on my hands and knees to the floor. Then the pain left and a day later, the pain came back and it was up my back and down my back. I also have it on my sides and it's painful and fat can trigger it.

I think I have a gallstone in the duct and sometimes, when they are not active, it won't show up in a ultrasound but it will in a CT scan. I'm seeing another doctor to find out what is wrong with me. It's lousy when you don't feel good and I want relief without pain medication.

By anon265729 — On May 02, 2012

I started having stomach pain, nausea and vomiting after laparoscopic surgery. I was tricked into having a hysterectomy I didn't need to relieve the abdominal pain.

It didn't relieve the pain and the doctor, I believe, purposely misaligned my pelvic girdle and now I have trouble walking. I break out in sweats and have to use Mag Citrate for a liquid stool in order to have any relief. I really, really, love greedy doctors.

By OeKc05 — On Jan 11, 2012

I have heard that being overweight or going on crash diets can cause you to develop hepatic duct obstructions. This must be true, because two of my friends who met these descriptions had bile duct blockages.

One was perpetually obese, and she was doing nothing to lose weight. She wound up needing surgery for her blockage. It had made her skin turn yellow, and she felt very ill.

My other friend was about twenty pounds overweight, and she participated in yo-yo dieting. She would go on a liquid diet for three days, and then, she would eat only salads and cereal for three days. She couldn't keep up this diet for long, and after a month or so, she would binge on fried foods and junk food.

This type of inconsistency is apparently really bad for you, because she also had to have surgery. I think her doctor talked her out of doing any more crash dieting.

By seag47 — On Jan 10, 2012

My sister had gall bladder stones that blocked her bile duct a few years ago. The doctor decided to remove her gall bladder, but something went wrong during the surgery.

He damaged her bile duct, and this is a serious thing. He didn't know that he did it until weeks later, when she came back to the hospital complaining of extreme pain and fever.

The injured hepatic duct had been leaking bile, and this caused her to develop an infection. She had to have corrective surgery to fix the bile duct. The doctor knew that he messed up, so she got the second surgery free.

By orangey03 — On Jan 09, 2012

@cloudel – My aunt had her gall bladder removed, and her doctor informed her about a few things that would run differently in her body. There would no longer be any storage of bile, since the storehouse was gone.

So, the liver just produces smaller amounts of bile. She doesn't have to be on any special diet, but she does have to eat smaller portions, so that she doesn't get indigestion. Her liver needs time to make enough bile to send out the hepatic duct and break down the food, and small portions won't overload the system.

She has lost weight as a result of this. She also avoids fatty foods with lots of grease, because her liver has trouble breaking them down, and they can make her sick.

By cloudel — On Jan 09, 2012

I have known several people who have had to have their gall bladders removed. They seem to be existing normally, and they are not on any special diets, as far as I know.

After reading this article, I just wonder how their bile production is affected. If there is no gall bladder, then there is nowhere for bile to be stored. So what happens as a result of this?

Hepatic ducts would no longer have to carry bile between the liver and gall bladder. So, where is it stored? Does it just roam about freely, trying to find where it belongs?

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