What Is a Contracted Gallbladder?

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD
    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

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What is a contracted gallbladder?

Doctor's response

The gallbladder is a muscular, hollow sack, approximately two inches by one inch that is attached to the lower edge of the liver. The purpose of the gallbladder is to store and concentrate bile. After a meal the muscular gallbladder contracts, and the stored bile is secreted into the intestine where it helps digest food, particularly fats.

The term "contracted gallbladder" can refer to two different situations. The first occurs following a meal or after maneuvers that cause the muscle of the gallbladder to contract, for example, ingestion of fat or injection intravenously of the hormone that is responsible for causing the gallbladder to contract. In either case, the gallbladder empties, becomes smaller, and is said to be contracted. This is the normal situation. The second situation is when the gallbladder is diseased, specifically when there has been inflammation, for example, due to gallstones, that has resulted in scarring of the gallbladder. Scarring causes the gallbladder to become smaller, for example, contracted, and the gallbladder no longer functions normally. The "contraction" in the latter situation is clearly different from the "contraction" in the first.

The gallbladder is most frequently evaluated by ultrasonography since fluid-filled sacks like the gallbladder are easily identified by ultrasound waves. If the gallbladder is contracted, no fluid-filled sack, or only a very small one, is seen where the gallbladder should be. This implies that the gallbladder is contracted (rarely is the gallbladder missing from birth); however, as per the previous discussion, it may be contracted because it is diseased (scarred) or because the person having the ultrasonogram has just eaten. That is why ultrasonograms of the gallbladder usually are done fasting, for example, so that an absence of the gallbladder (indicating a contracted gallbladder) means a diseased gallbladder and not a contracted one that is due to eating.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"Functional gallbladder disorder in adults"
UpToDate.com


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Reviewed on 6/15/2017

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