bladder, urinary, muscular sac located in the pelvis that stores urine and contracts to expel it from the body. Urine enters the bladder from the kidneys through the ureters and is discharged from the body via the urethra. The bladder of the adult human can hold over a pint (0.6 liters) of urine. When the level of urine reaches about half this amount, pressure of the accumulating fluid stimulates nervous impulses that relax the external sphincter, a muscle that forms a dense band around the urethra at the base of the bladder. This muscle can be controlled voluntarily in most mammals. The muscles in the wall of the bladder also contract, forcing urine out through the urethra. The bladder is subject to infection (commonly called cystitis) and the formation of stones. Its normal function may also be affected by nervous disorders or by external pressure, as from prostatic enlargement or pregnancy. See urinary system.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.