Ampulla of Vater

The ampulla of Vater is a conical structure at the confluence of the common bile duct (CBD) and the main pancreatic duct that protrudes at the major duodenal papilla into the medial aspect of the descending duodenum. The entire structure is encased by smooth muscle fibers that compose the sphincter of Oddi 2.  It traverses a dehiscence of the duodenal wall and terminates at the major duodenal papilla.

The confluence of the common bile and main pancreatic ducts can occur in three ways 1:

  • a common duct (the ampulla of Vater) ~60% 
  • a “double-barreled” opening at the apex of the papilla ~38% 
  • separate duodenal openings for the two canals ~2% 

Named after Abraham Vater (1684-1751), a German professor of anatomy 5.  

The eponymous terms for both the ampulla and the papilla can be replaced with anatomical terms such as hepatopancreatic or biliopancreatic ampulla and major or greater duodenal papilla, respectively 6.

Abdominal and pelvic anatomy
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Article Information

rID: 17605
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Vater's ampulla
  • Major duodenal papilla
  • Greater duodenal papilla
  • Hepatopancreatic ampulla
  • Biliaropancreatic ampulla

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Cases and Figures

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    Figure 1: normal ampulla of Vater
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    Case 1: ampulla of Vater on an upper GI
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