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Published by: api-3856120 on Oct 19, 2008
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Alternative Names
Cholecystitis - acute
Acute cholecystitis is a sudden inflammation of the gallbladder that causes severe abdominal pain.
In 90% of cases, acute cholecystitis is caused by gallstones in the gallbladder. Severe illness, alcohol abuse and,
rarely, tumors of the gallbladder may also cause cholecystitis.
Acute cholecystitis causes bile to become trapped in the gallbladder. The build up of bile causes irritation and
pressure in the gallbladder. This can lead to bacterial infection and perforation of the organ.
Gallstones occur more frequently in women than men. Gallstones become more common with age in both
sexes. Native Americans have a higher rate of gallstones.
The main symptom is abdominal pain -- particularly after a fatty meal -- that is located on the upper right side
of the abdomen. Occasionally, nausea and vomiting or fever may occur.
Exams and Tests
A doctor's examination of the abdomen by touch (palpation
) may reveal tenderness.
Tests that detect the presence of gallstones or inflammation include:
Abdominal ultrasound
Abdominal CT scan
Abdominal x-ray
Oral cholecystogram
Gallbladder radionuclide scan
A CBC shows infection by an elevated white blood cell count.
Although cholecystitis may clear up on its own, surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is usually
needed when inflammation continues or recurs.

This operation is done as soon as possible, unless the patient is very ill or if the inflammation is thought to have
been present for many days. Emergency surgery may be necessary if gangrene (tissue death), perforation,
pancreatitis, or inflammation of the common bile duct occurs.

Occasionally, in very ill patients, a tube may be placed through the skin to drain the gallbladder until the patient
gets better and can have surgery.
Nonsurgical treatment includes pain medicines, antibiotics to fight infection, and a low-fat diet (when food can
be tolerated). Patients usually need one or more doses of antibiotics.
Outlook (Prognosis)
Patients who have cholecystectomy usually do very well.
Possible Complications
Empyema (pus in the gallbladder)
Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdomen)
Gangrene (tissue death) of the gallbladder
Injury to the bile ducts draining the liver (a rare complication of cholecystectomy)
When to Contact a Medical ProfessionalReturn to top
Call your health care provider if severe abdominal pain persists.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of cholecystitis recur after an acute episode.
PreventionReturn to top
Removal of the gallbladder and gallstones will prevent further attacks. Reduce the fat content in the diet if you
are prone to attacks of cholecystitis.
Complications of Cholecystitis?
If not treated properly or soon, complications may develop. Common complications of
cholecystitis are:
pus in the gallbladder
inflammation of the lining of the abdomen
tissue death of the gallbladder
Cholecystitis - Overview
What is cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder, a small organ near the liver that plays a part in digesting food. Normally, fluid called bile passes out of the gallbladder on its way to the small intestine. If the flow of bile is blocked, it builds up inside the gallbladder, causing swelling, pain, and possible infection.

What causes cholecystitis?

A gallstone stuck in the cystic duct, a tube that carries bile from the gallbladder, is most often the cause of
sudden (acute) cholecystitis. The gallstone blocks fluid from passing out of the gallbladder. This results in an
irritated and swollen gallbladder. Infection or trauma, such as an injury from a car accident, can also cause

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