Cholecystitis – Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Inflammation of the gallbladder is called as Cholecystitis. Gallbladder is a small, pouched organ located in the upper right of your abdomen, below the liver. It stores a digestive fluid called as bile that is released into your small intestine.

In most of the cases, obstruction due to gallstones is the reason behind cholecystitis. This leads to excess bile build up that can cause inflammation. Other causes of cholecystitis are bile duct complications, tumors, serious illness and certain infections.

Cholecystitis can result in serious, sometimes life-threatening complications, such as a gallbladder rupture if not treated timely. Treatment for cholecystitis often includes removal of gallbladder.


Signs and symptoms of cholecystitis may be the following:

  • Severe pain in upper right or center of your abdomen
  • Pain that radiates to your right shoulder or back
  • Tenderness over your abdomen when it is touched
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Cholecystitis signs and symptoms often occur after taking food, especially bulky or fatty foods


Cholecystitis occurs if there is an inflammation in gallbladder which is . caused by:

  • Gallstones. Most often, cholecystitis occurs because of hard particles (gallstones) that form in your gallbladder . These gallstones can block the tube (cystic duct) through which bile travels when it leaves the gallbladder. Bile is stored in large amount which results in inflammation.
  • Tumor. A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly, causing bile deposition that can result in cholecystitis.
  • Bile duct blockage. Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can create blockages that cause cholecystitis.
  • Infection. AIDS and certain viral infections can trigger gallbladder inflammation.
  • Blood vessel problems. A very severe illness can damage blood vessels and lower blood flow to the gallbladder, causing cholecystitis.

Risk factors

Having gallstones is the major risk factor for developing cholecystitis.


Cholecystitis can lead to a number of serious complications, which are:

  • Infection within the gallbladder. If bile builds up within your gallbladder, causing cholecystitis, the bile may become infected.
  • Death of gallbladder tissue. Due to cholecystitis, tissues of the gallbladder can die called as gangrene. It’s the most common complication, particularly in older people, those who got late treatmen and those who have diabetes. This can result in rupture of the gallbladder, or it may cause your gallbladder to burst.
  • Ruptured gallbladder. A tear or perforation in your gallbladder may result from gallbladder swelling, infection or death of tissue.


You can reduce your risk of cholecystitis by taking the following steps to prevent gallstones:

  1. Lose weight slowly. Rapid weight loss can cause more the risk of gallstones. If you want to lose weight, aim to lose about 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 1 kilogram approx.) in a week.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your chance to develop gallstones. To achieve a healthy weight, reduce calories and increase your physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight by healthy diet and proper exercise.
  3. Choose a healthy diet. Diets having more fat and low fiber may increase the risk of gallstones. To lower your risk, choose a healthy diet having more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.


Many tests and diagnostic procedures are used to diagnose cholecystitis which include:

  • Blood tests. Your doctor may perform blood tests to see any visible signs of an infection or signs of gallbladder complications.
  • Imaging tests that show your gallbladder. Abdominal ultrasound, endoscopy, or a computerized tomography (CT) scan can be used to make images of your gallbladder that may reveal signs of cholecystitis or bile ducts and gallbladder stones.
  • A scan that shows the movement of bile through your body. A hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan tracks the formation and flow of bile from your liver to your small intestine and shows obstructions. A HIDA scan consists injecting a radioactive dye into your body, which attaches to bile-forming cells so that it can be seen as it travels with the bile through the bile ducts.


Treatment for cholecystitis generally involves a stay in hospital to treat the inflammation of your gallbladder. Sometimes, surgery is required.

At the hospital, your doctor will perform some procedures to control your signs and symptoms. Treatments may be the following:

  • Fasting. Your doctor may be not allow you to eat or drink at first in order to take stress off your inflamed gallbladder.
  • Fluids through a vein in your arm. This treatment helps in preventing dehydration.
  • Antibiotics to fight infection. If your gallbladder is infected, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics.
  • Pain medications. These can help in pain control until the inflammation in your gallbladder is cured.
  • Procedure to remove stones. Your doctor may perform a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to remove any stones blocking the bile ducts or cystic duct.

Your symptoms are likely to reduce in 2-3 days. However, gallbladder inflammation often comes back. Most people with this condition ultimately need surgical removal of the gallbladder.

Gallbladder removal surgery is known as cholecystectomy. Usually, this is a minimally invasive process, involving some tiny incisions in your abdomen (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). An open procedure, involving a long incision in your abdomen, is rarely needed.

The duration of surgery depends on the severity of your symptoms and your overall risk of complications during and after surgery. If you have low surgical risk, surgery may be done within 48 hours or during your hospital stay.

If cholecystectomy occurs, removed, bile flows directly from the liver into your small intestine, without being stored in your gallbladder. You can live normally without your gallbladder.

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