Ampulla of Vater
Normal anatomy

Author: Hanni Gulwani, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 22 January 2016, last major update November 2012

Copyright: (c) 2003-2016,, Inc.

Cite this page: Normal anatomy. website. Accessed July 16th, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Ampulla means flask like dilatation (spreading or stretching) of a tubular structure
  • May refer to Ampulla of Vater, or portion of fallopian tube, vas deferens, semicircular canal or colon
  • Vater ("fah-ter") is German anatomist Abraham Vater (1684-1751) who first described this structure
  • Usually refers to confluence of distal common bile duct and main pancreatic duct in second portion of duodenum near pancreatic head, although in 42% of patients, ampulla is termination of common bile duct only as the pancreatic duct enters the duodenum separately next to ampulla; in these cases, ampulla may be difficult to locate or nonexistent
  • Ampulla is 1.5 cm long or less, traverses duodenal wall, opens into the duodenal lumen through (major) duodenal papilla (papilla of Vater), a 0.5 cm in diameter mucosal elevation with mucosal reduplications (valves of Santorini) that probably prevent regurgitation
  • Minor papilla, also called accessory pancreatic duct (APD) of Santorini, is 2 cm proximal and slightly anterior to major papilla
  • APD is Patent in 50% cases, pancreatic tissue is noted in 80% of cases in minor papilla (Dig Surg 2010;27:137)
  • Ampulla is surrounded by muscular fibers of sphincter of Oddi
Diagrams / tables

Images hosted on other servers:

Local anatomy (called common duct)


Additional references