DAVID M. MARTIN, MD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID M. MARTIN, MD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Gallstone treatment. Endoscope view of a papillo- tomy (sphincterotomy) operation to unblock the common bile duct, which is blocked by gallstones. The bile duct opens into the duodenum of the small intestine at the ampulla of Vater. Gallstones are hard lumps formed by the gall bladder as it stores and concentrates bile. These can get stuck in the duct, causing severe pain, vomiting and jaundice (bile pigments in the blood). A papillotome (upper right) uses an electric current to cut (electro- cautery) the muscle which closes the ampulla of Vater, allowing gallstones to be passed. This is done when removal of the entire gall bladder (the usual treatment) is not feasible.
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