Ampulla of Vater

Not to be confused with the Duodenal cap also known as the duodenal ampulla, the first part of the duodenum.
Ampulla of Vater

A diagram of the biliary system. Note that the ampulla of Vater is behind the major duodenal papilla.

The major duodenal papilla, seen on duodenoscopy at the time of ERCP. This is the protrusion of the ampulla of Vater into the duodenum.
Latin Ampulla hepatopancreatica, ampulla Vaterii
MeSH A03.
TA A05.8.02.017
FMA 15076

Anatomical terminology

The ampulla of Vater, also known as the hepatopancreatic ampulla or the hepatopancreatic duct, is formed by the union of the pancreatic duct and the common bile duct. The ampulla is specifically located at the major duodenal papilla.

The ampulla of Vater is an important landmark halfway along the second part of the duodenum that marks the anatomical transition from foregut to midgut, and hence the point where the celiac trunk stops supplying the gut and the superior mesenteric artery takes over.


1. Bile ducts: 2. Intrahepatic bile ducts, 3. Left and right hepatic ducts, 4. Common hepatic duct, 5. Cystic duct, 6. Common bile duct, 7. Ampulla of Vater, 8. Major duodenal papilla
9. Gallbladder, 10–11. Right and left lobes of liver. 12. Spleen.
13. Esophagus. 14. Stomach. 15. Pancreas: 16: Accessory pancreatic duct, 17: Pancreatic duct.
18. Small intestine: 19. Duodenum, 20. Jejunum
21–22: Right and left kidneys (silhouette).
The anterior border of the liver is lifted upwards (brown arrow). Gallbladder with Longitudinal section, pancreas and duodenum with frontal one. Intrahepatic ducts and stomach in transparency.

The cystic duct leaves the gallbladder and joins with the common hepatic duct to form the common bile duct. This duct subsequently joins with the pancreatic duct; this junction is known as the ampulla of Vater. The pancreatic duct delivers substances such as bicarbonate and digestive enzymes to the duodenum. The bile from the gallbladder contains salts which emulsify large fat droplets into much smaller units. This provides a large surface area for the lipase enzymes to act on. The bicarbonate neutralises the acidic chyme, creating alkaline conditions for enzymes such as chymotrypsin and amylase to function optimally.


Various smooth muscle sphincters regulate the flow of bile and pancreatic juice through the ampulla: the sphincter of the pancreatic duct, the sphincter of the bile duct, and the sphincter of Oddi.

The sphincter of Oddi controls the introduction of bile and pancreatic secretions into the duodenum, as well as preventing the entry of duodenal contents into the ampulla.

Clinical relevance

Pancreatitis can result from a failure of pancreatic secretions to drain properly. One possible cause of impaired drainage of pancreatic juice is blockage of the sphincter of Oddi. A common cause of blockage is a gallstone in the common bile duct.


The eponymic term "ampulla of Vater" is named after Abraham Vater (1684–1751),[1] a German anatomist who first published a description of it in 1720.[2]

Additional images


  1. Lerch MM, Domschke W (2000) Abraham Vater of the ampulla (papilla) of Vater. Gastroenterology 118 (2):379. PMID 10691372
  2. synd/3095 at Who Named It?
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