by Stephanie Reid, MD FRCPC
May 20, 2022
The bile ducts are a group of tubes that connect the liver, and gallbladder to the intestine. They allow bile and other materials produced by the liver to travel into the intestine, where they help with digestion or are removed from the body as stool. The system of bile ducts is also called the biliary tree.
The bile duct system is divided into parts based on the location of the duct. The ducts that are found inside the liver are called intrahepatic. The intrahepatic ducts are tiny and are located close to the liver cells that make bile. Before exiting the liver, the tiny intrahepatic ducts join to form larger ducts.
Outside of the liver, the larger ducts join to form two much larger ducts that drain the left and right sides of the liver. These two ducts are called the left hepatic duct and right hepatic duct. As they travel towards the gallbladder, the left and right hepatic ducts join to form the common hepatic duct.
Like the liver, the gallbladder is also drained by a duct called the cystic duct. Shortly after leaving the gallbladder, the cystic duct joins with the common hepatic duct and together they form the common bile duct. The common bile duct then passes through a portion of the pancreas and empties into the small intestine.