The gallbladder serves as the repository for bile produced in the liver. However, bile within the gallbladder may become supersaturated with cholesterol, leading to crystal precipitation and subsequent gallstone formation. The most common disorders of the gallbladder are related to gallstones and include symptomatic cholelithiasis, acute and chronic cholecystitis, and carcinoma of the gallbladder. Other conditions that can affect the gallbladder include biliary dyskinesia (functional), adenomyomatosis (hyperplastic), and postoperative changes or complications (iatrogenic). Ultrasonography (US) has been the traditional modality for evaluating gallbladder disease, primarily owing to its high sensitivity and specificity for both stone disease and gallbladder inflammation. US performed before and after ingestion of a fatty meal may also be useful for functional evaluation of the gallbladder. However, US is limited by patient body habitus, with degradation of image quality and anatomic detail in obese individuals. With the advent of faster and more efficient imaging techniques, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has assumed an increasing role as an adjunct modality for gallbladder imaging, primarily in patients who are incompletely assessed with US. MR imaging allows simultaneous anatomic and physiologic assessment of the gallbladder and biliary tract in both initial evaluation of disease and examination of the postoperative patient. This assessment is accomplished chiefly through the use of MR imaging contrast agents excreted preferentially via the biliary system.
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