Cholecystitis | Digestive Health | Loyola Medicine


Overview and Facts about Cholecystitis

Cholecystitis occurs when the gallbladder becomes inflamed. The gallbladder is a small organ responsible for getting bile from your liver to the small intestine to help with digestive health, namely digesting fats, and cholecystitis develops when that process is blocked by gallstones or another obstruction.

The condition can either come on suddenly or build over time. While it is estimated that between 10-20 percent of people in the general population have gallstones, the exact number of people who have cholecystitis is unknown.

Symptoms and Signs of Cholecystitis

Signs and symptoms of cholecystitis may include:

  • Nausea
  • Not being able to touch the abdomen without feeling pain or tenderness
  • Pain that spreads to your right shoulder or back
  • Severe pain in your upper right or center abdomen
  • Vomiting

These signs and symptoms are most likely to occur after a large or fatty meal.

Causes and Risk Factors of Cholecystitis

Having a gallstone block the duct that leads out of the gallbladder is the most common reason for cholecystitis. The bile build up that results from this leads to inflammation. Other causes linked to cholecystitis include:

  • Bile duct issues
  • Tumors
  • Serious illness that affects blood vessels
  • Certain infections, like AIDS

Tests and Diagnosis of Cholecystitis

You should definitely go to the doctor if you are experiencing these signs and symptoms on a regular basis. Tests and procedures the doctor can use to diagnose cholecystitis include:

  • A HIDA scan, which can trace the production and flow of bile from the liver to the small intestine, revealing any blockages. Radioactive dye injected into the blood that attaches to bile-producing cells makes this possible.
  • Blood tests to look for signs of infection or other gallbladder problems
  • Imaging tests that highlight the gallbladder. Abdominal ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasound or CT scan can be used to create pictures that can show signs of cholecystitis or stones in the bile ducts and gallbladder.

Treatment and Care for Cholecystitis

Treatment for cholecystitis typically involves gallbladder removal. Luckily, you do not need a gallbladder to live a normal life. Without the gallbladder, bile moves directly from the liver to the small intestine. Pain medications and antibiotics to fight any infection will help to make the treatment and recovery process easier.

If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening complications, including a rupture in the gallbladder.