What is Cholecystitis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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Cholecystitis is an inflammation of the gallbladder, an organ which is responsible for concentrating the bile used in digestion. Individuals with cholecystitis experience pain in their upper right abdomens, and they can also develop symptoms such as nausea. Treatment for this condition varies, depending on the cause, but most classically the gallbladder is removed from the patient.

The most common type of cholecystitis is caused by choleliths, also known as gallstones. These small pieces of material can block the ducts which drain the gallbladder, allowing a buildup of bile and causing the walls of the gallbladder to become inflamed. Bacteria from the gut can also enter the gallbladder, causing infection, and if the condition is allowed to persist, inflammation can spread to the surrounding abdominal organs.

In acalculous cholecystitis, no choleliths are present, and the inflammation is caused by something else. Decreased blood supply to the gallbladder, as sometimes happens in diabetics, can cause inflammation, as can a buildup of gallbladder sludge. Trauma patients or severely ill patients can also develop inflamed gallbladders.

The condition is classified as either acute, meaning that it has only happened once, or chronic, meaning that the inflammation has been sustained and persistent. In both cases, gallbladder inflammation is diagnosed after a physical exam reveals abdominal tenderness, and medical imaging shows that the organ is inflamed. Once the cause has been determined, the doctor can discuss treatment options.


People with this condition usually need to be hospitalized. They are typically given antibiotics and drugs to manage the inflammation. In some cases, drugs can be used to break up the gallstones and resolve the condition. In other instances, it may be necessary to perform a cholecystectomy, in which the gallbladder is removed. If the patient is not stable enough for surgery, tubes may be inserted to drain the gallbladder and the patient will be given supportive care until he or she stabilizes and more long term cholecystitis treatment can be offered.

After a gallbladder removal, a patient will be given care instructions so that he or she understands how to live without the gallbladder. Patients usually need to make dietary modifications, and they may need to take certain medications to manage without their gallbladders. Bile is still accessible to the digestive tract, because it is produced by the liver, but certain digestive activities can be hampered by the lack of a reservoir of bile which is normally held in the gallbladder.


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Post 5

For some reason, when I had my first gallbladder attack, all my pain was in my middle to lower back and radiated to the left kidney area. Naturally, we assumed it was a kidney stone and x-rays showed there was, in fact, a small one in the left kidney. So they assumed I had already passed one on my own because the pain stopped after receiving anti-inflammatory meds.

A month later the pain came back with a fury! I tried to wait it out for 11 hours for the second stone to pass on its own. Unable to handle the pain and vomiting any longer, I returned to hospital again. Kidney stone was still in place and kidney looked fine

. My white blood count was really elevated, which finally made them suspect the gallbladder. Sure enough, it was so infected that I had gangrene. It wasn't until I was on strong antibiotics for 24 hours that the pain localized in the right abdomen where it should have been! Weird!
Post 4

My gallbladder had quit functioning normally last year. It couldn’t get rid of all my bile, so sludge built up.

I was having a lot of pain, so my doctor did an x-ray and found the sludge. He told me that it was a combination of bile, calcium, and cholesterol. I have vomited bile before, and it is a really gross substance to have stuck in one of your organs.

Sometimes sludge will pass on its own. However, I had a significant amount, and to my doctor, this meant that my gallbladder had stopped doing its job and probably wouldn’t recover. So, he recommended removal.

Post 3

I had to have my gallbladder removed. I was afraid there would be bad consequences to my body, but my doctor told me the worst thing I had to worry about was diarrhea.

He said that for the next few weeks, I should not eat anything high in fat. My body needed to adapt to life without the gallbladder.

I waited nearly two months before eating anything fried. Then, I ate a few pieces of really greasy fried chicken. My stomach cramped severely, and I had to stay in the bathroom for awhile.

These days, I stick with low-fat foods. I also try to eat lots of fiber.

Post 2

My sister had gallstones, and they cause a lot of pain. She first noticed something was wrong in the shower when she washed the area of skin above the gall bladder and found it was extremely tender.

After she touched it, the pain seemed to linger. By the next morning, she was in full-blown misery. She came in the kitchen bent over with her arm across her abdomen, crying and reaching for some over-the-counter pain relievers.

My mother told her not to take them, because she needed to go to the hospital. She knew if she had taken them, she would not have gotten any relief, and the doctor could would have been unable to give her powerful pain pills for several hours.

The doctor found that she had gallstones. She had to take medicine to disintegrate them, and she had to stay in the hospital for several days until her condition improved.

Post 1

I can remember when my pastor had to have his gall bladder removed. He didn’t show up to church, and when someone went to the parsonage to check on him, he was rolling on the floor in agony.

It hurt so bad that it made him cry. He pointed to his upper abdomen and yelled. He couldn’t even form words, and he definitely could not stand up straight.

The church member helped him to the car and took him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with cholecystitis. His gallbladder was so badly inflamed that it was near the point of rupture. He had to have emergency gallbladder removal surgery.

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