What Is the Difference Between the Common Hepatic Duct and the Common Bile Duct?

Reviewed on 2/17/2022

Rendering of bile duct cancer
Both the common hepatic duct and the common bile duct help the body digest food and drain waste products from the liver.

Both the common hepatic duct and the common bile duct are part of the biliary system, which is made up of the organs and ducts (bile ducts, gallbladder, and associated structures) that are involved in the production and transportation of bile.

A number of tiny tubes in the liver collect bile, a secretion produced in the liver. These tubes come together to form small ducts, which then join forming larger ducts called the right and left hepatic ducts. The right and left hepatic ducts come out of the liver and join together to form the common hepatic duct.

4 Differences Between the Common Hepatic Duct & Common Bile Duct

  • The cystic duct connects the gallbladder to the common bile duct.
  • The common hepatic duct joins with the cystic duct join to form the common bile duct. 
  • The common bile duct is a thin tube that carries bile from the liver. It measures about 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm) long. Several different ducts join to form the common bile duct, and one of those is the common hepatic duct. 
  • The common bile duct runs from the liver to the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).

What Is the Function of the Common Hepatic Duct and the Common Bile Duct?

As part of the biliary system, the function of the common hepatic duct and the common bile duct involves:

  • Draining waste products from the liver into the duodenum
  • Aiding in digestion with the controlled release of bile

What Are Some Types of Bile Duct Disorders?

Noncancerous bile duct disorders include:

  • Cholangitis 
    • Infection of the bile duct
  • Bile duct leaks
    • Can happen following certain surgeries and may cause infection
  • Biliary stricture
  • Biliary stones (choledocholithiasis)
    • A gallstone in the common bile duct
  • Biliary changes after liver transplant
    • Bile leaks 
    • Narrowing of ducts

Cancer can also block the bile ducts.

What Are Symptoms of Bile Duct Disorders?

Common symptoms of bile duct disorders can vary depending on the condition and may include:

What Is the Treatment for Bile Duct Disorders?

The treatment of bile duct disorders depends on the disorder and may include:

  • Treatment of cholangitis may include: 
    • Antibiotics
    • Intravenous (IV) fluids
    • Pain medicine
    • Drainage of the bile ducts
    • Stents may be inserted into the bile ducts to keep them open
    • Gallstones may be removed
    • Surgery to open ducts to drain the bile and reduce the buildup of fluid if treatment doesn’t work or symptoms worsen
  • Treatment of bile duct leaks includes:
    • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) with placement of a temporary bile duct stent 
  • Treatment of biliary stricture may include:
    • Antibiotics
    • Surgical care
      • Decompression of the biliary system
      • Endoscopic management
      • Sphincterotomy and endoscopic balloon dilatation
      • Endoscopic biliary stenting
      • Endoscopic therapy for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is palliative
      • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangioplasty and biliary stenting
      • Operative treatment
        • For patients with a low surgical risk in whom endoscopic therapy has failed
  • Treatment of biliary stones (choledocholithiasis) includes:
    • Extraction of the stone with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) 


Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

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Reviewed on 2/17/2022
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