In order to accomplish its contribution to the digestive process, the gallbladder must contract appropriately during its emptying phases and it must be able to relax adequately for filling to occur. A variety of neuro-hormonal inputs to gallbladder smooth muscle coordinate the gallbladder emptying process with other events occurring in the bowel. Gallbladder dysmotility can disrupt the normal flow of bile to the small bowel, resulting in digestive dysfunction. In addition to this, alterations in gallbladder motility may play a role in pathological conditions, such as cholesterol gallstone formation and cholecystitis. It is still not entirely clear whether impaired gallbladder emptying is a cause or consequence of cholesterol gallstones, but recent experimental evidences demonstrate that cholesterol can directly affect the plasma membrane of gallbladder smooth muscle cells to cause impaired contraction. In addition, gallbladder emptying is impaired in acute gallbladder inflammation, probably as the result of the deleterious neural and muscular actions of inflammatory mediators such as reactive oxygen species, prostaglandins and histamine. It should also be noted that opiate treatments in critically ill patients can reduce gallbladder motility by inhibiting neurotransmitter release, and may contribute to the onset of acalculous cholecystitis, which is associated with significant morbidity in these patients.
Keywords: cholesterol, gallstones, inflammation, cholecystitis, prostaglandins, reactive oxygen species, opioids
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