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Parts of the Digestive System: Medical Terminology

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Parts of the Digestive System and Health Literacy

Knowledge and understanding of the medical terminology pertaining to parts of the digestive system is a vital part of health literacy. It aids in understanding your health and the health care you receive pertaining to your digestive system.  Listed below are common medical terms and their definitions. To get the most out of your learning you can hear the correct pronunciation of the terms in bold font in the order in which they appear. Just click the play button below.

Medical Terminology  

Pronunciation

Abdominal cavity – It is the cavity of the body between the diaphragm and the parts of the digestive systempelvis which contains the organs of the abdomen.  They include the lower portion of the esophagus, the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys.   

Alimentary canal – It is the part of the digestive system formed by the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Interchangeable terms for it are digestive tract, digestive canal and alimentary tract.  

Ampulla of Vater – The nexus of the common bile duct and pancreatic ducts immediately prior to entry into the duodenum.  It delivers bile from the liver and gallbladder and enzymes from the pancreas to the duodenum. Another name for it is the hepatopancreatic ampulla

Anus – The terminal or final portion of the alimentary tract through which fecal waste is eliminated from the body.  

Appendix – Is a tube-like appendage of the cecum. Protrusion of the inner lining of the colon gives rise to it.  

Bile duct – Any of the tubular passages which convey bile within are from the liver.  

Biliary tree – Is the merging network of ducts which transport bile within or from the liver into the duodenum.  It is namely the bile ducts within the liver, right and left hepatic ducts, common hepatic duct, common bile duct, cystic duct and the hepatopancreatic ampulla.  

Biliary tract – It is the organs, ducts and other structures that participate in the secretion, storage and delivery of bile into the first portion of the small intestine. It is namely the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, cystic duct, hepatic ducts, common bile duct, pancreatic duct, hepatopancreatic ampulla, sphincter of Oddi and the duodenum. 

Cecum (Caecum) – It is a dilated pouch forming the first part of the large intestine. It joins the last portion of the small intestine.  

Colon – It is the portion of the large intestine extending from the cecum to the rectum. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with large intestine, but the rectum and anus are not parts of the colon.  

Common bile duct – The duct or tubular structure formed from the joining of the common hepatic duct with the cystic duct.  It empties into the duodenum where it delivers bile produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder.  

Cystic duct – It is the tubular structure that delivers stored bile from the gallbladder to the common bile duct for transport to the duodenum.  

Duodenum – The first portion of the small intestine which joins the last portion of the stomach.  

Esophagus – It is the portion of the gastrointestinal tract which transports swallowed food and liquids to the stomach.   

Gallbladder – Is the small pear-shaped reservoir under the liver which stores and concentrates bile, which the liver secretes. Bile plays a role in the digestion and absorption of fat.

Gastroesophageal sphincter – It is the muscle ring surrounding the junction of the esophagus and stomach. It normally allows food and liquid to pass in only one direction from the esophagus into the stomach.  When it malfunctions, contents flow backwards from the stomach into the esophagus.  

Gastrointestinal tract – It is the concept of the stomach and intestines as a unit. 

Hepatic ducts – They are the ducts that transport bile within or from the liver.  Namely, they are the small bile ducts within the liver, the right and left hepatic ducts and the common hepatic duct.  

Ileum – The last portion of the small intestine extending from the end of the jejunum to the cecum.    

Intestine – The portion of the alimentary canal extending from the last portion of the stomach to the anus. Synonymous terms are bowel and gut.  

Jejunum – The middle portion of the small intestine between the duodenum and the ileum.  

Large intestine – It is the distal portion of the intestine beginning at its junction with the small intestine and extending to the anus. 

Liver – It is a large dark red organ in the right upper portion of the abdominal cavity just beneath the diaphragm.  It has many functions.  They include the secretion of bile, the storage and conversion of sugar substances, transformation of medications and many other metabolic activities.  

Oral cavity – It is the mouth cavity and its associated structures.  They include the cheeks, palate, mucous membranes, salivary glands, salivary gland ducts, teeth, and tongue.

Pancreas – Is the gland which sits in the middle of the abdomen behind the organs covered by the peritoneal membrane. It is part of both the endocrine system and the digestive system. The greater portion of the gland is of exocrine function in that it secretes enzymes to aid in digestion and delivers them to the site of action in the intestine through ducts. The two main enzymes it produces are amylase and lipase. Amylase breaks down starches during digestion. Lipase breaks down fats.

Pancreatic duct – It is the main duct from the pancreas which unites with the common bile duct just prior to the formation of the ampulla of Vater.   

Peritoneum (Peritoneal membrane) – It is the membrane that lines the walls of the abdomen and folds to enclose the organs within the abdomen.

Peritoneal cavity (Peritoneal space) – It is the actual or potential space between the peritoneal membrane where it lines the abdominal wall and where it encloses the organs within the abdomen.  

Pylorus – The last portion of the stomach that joins the duodenum.   

Rectum – The terminal portion of the large intestine extending from the final portion of the colon to the anus   

Salivary glands – They are structures within or in close proximity to the oral cavity which secrete saliva.  Saliva serves to moisten food.  It also contains amylase, a digestive enzyme which converts starch into the sugar, maltose.  

Small intestine – It is the portion of the intestine extending from the pylorus to the cecum.  

Sphincter of Oddi – The sheath of muscle fibers surrounding the junction of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct as they cross the outer wall of the duodenum. It regulates the flow of bile and enzymes from the pancreas into the duodenum. It also prevents their reflux or backward flow from the duodenum into the hepatopancreatic ampulla.  

Stomach It is the organ of the digestive system between the esophagus and small intestine.  It is where digestion of protein begins.

 

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