Three centuries since the discovery of Vaters Papilla

In 1720 Abraham Vater (1684–1751) published the first description of the Papilla at the junction of the common bile duct and the pancreatic duct that today bares his name.1 It would remain his most clinically relevant discovery, particularly since the introduction of endoscopic papillotomy in the 1970s2 and the recognition of endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP)-induced pancreatitis as a significant disease risk.3 The anatomy of the papilla is not uniform among mammals. The rabbit has completely separate junctions of both ducts with the intestine4 and the mouse carries no smooth muscle sphincter.5 Closest to the human anatomy is probably the American Opossum,6 which has therefore been used experimentally to study the mechanisms involved in gallstone-induced pancreatitis.7 The papilla of Vater has remained the subject of many investigations in humans,8 because its impairment affects diseases of...