What is Gallbladder Gangrene?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Gallbladder gangrene is death of part of the gallbladder caused by inflammation or infection associated with gallstones. It can be a life-threatening medical emergency and the patient needs surgery to treat the infection before it has an opportunity to spread. In surgery, a doctor will remove the gallbladder and any neighboring dead or diseased tissue. The patient should make a full recovery if the condition is caught in a timely fashion.

This condition arises in patients with untreated cholecystitis, where the gallbladder develops inflammation. This usually occurs because of gallstones, small deposits of material inside the gallbladder, although sometimes it happens independently. The tissue of the gallbladder starts to die, causing the patient to experience cramping, bloating, and severe abdominal pain. If the gallbladder gangrene is not treated, an infection may arise, and the patient can develop a systemic infection, where bacteria circulate freely through the bloodstream.

Several clues can help a doctor identify gangrene. The physical symptoms may lead a doctor to recommend medical imaging studies of the abdomen, where the dead tissue will be visible. Bloodwork can also reveal signs of inflammation and infection. If the doctor believes a patient has gallbladder gangrene, the recommendation is usually immediate surgery to take the organ out. The patient may not be stable enough for surgery if severe infection has set in, in which case the doctor will treat the patient with aggressive antibiotics with the goal of quelling the infection so a surgeon can operate.


During the recovery phase, the patient will need to take medications to prevent infection and address the inflammation. Dietary modifications may also be necessary. As the patient recovers, the diet can return to normal and a patient can undergo blood tests to check for high white blood cell counts and other warning signs of infection. It is important for patients in recovery to report fevers, pain, and other symptoms of infection.

Patients with gallbladder problems, particularly people with underlying diseases like diabetes, benefit from immediate treatment. More treatment options will be available before the inflammation progresses to the point where gangrene can occur. Seeking prompt treatment for abdominal pain and tenderness, bloating, and digestive problems can help people avoid serious complications and invasive surgical procedures to treat severe medical problems. Failure to receive treatment in time can expose people to the risk of more serious complications, including death if no treatment is made available.


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Post 5

What do you do if you got gallstones and you don't have insurance? And when you go to the hospital they won't do anything for you. I don't want gangrene to set up so what do I do?

Post 4

I had severe pain in the abdomen and rushed to the ER. The infection in the gall bladder had caused infection in the pancreas as well. After heavy antibiotic treatment for about one week in the hospital, they removed the gallstones and then a few days later my gallbladder, which was severely damaged and gangrenous. The bile, however, had made its way into my stomach and then apparently it had traveled to my lungs.

The lungs couldn't handle that and shut down. After three nights and four days in the ICU with breathing and stomach tubes, the infections were under control and I was able to return to the ward for eventual release home.

It's been now two weeks since

release and the pain is pretty much gone, but I am still quite weak and resting a great deal. No lifting or work for 6 to 8 weeks as I heal. It was the most painful experience of my life and being wheeled into the ICU unable to breathe was grave, to say the least.
Post 3

@seag47 - I am familiar with that drop in blood pressure. It scared me to death when my husband screamed out in pain, grabbed his stomach, and then fainted. When he came to, I checked his pulse, which was extremely low. I rushed him to the emergency room, afraid that he had experienced a heart attack.

On the way there, he began vomiting and sweating. Thankfully, the emergency room staff could see that he needed immediate attention, and we did not have to wait long at all.

According to the doctor, if we had not come in, his gallbladder could have burst the next day. He had advanced gangrene.

Post 2

At the age of 52, my brother, who had a history of heart disease, developed gallbladder gangrene. He had been suffering from acute cholecystitis. This inflammation developed quickly, and along with extreme pain, he experienced a big drop in blood pressure.

His doctor told him that a gallstone had lodged in the duct through which bile flows outward from the gallbladder. Because the gallbladder could not release bile, it distended, damaging its lining and causing pressure and fluid to accumulate inside of it.

His gallbladder had begun to die from this pressure and inflammation. He had to have emergency surgery.

Post 1

This is a really scary condition, especially if you don't know what's going on. One time I was hanging out with a friend when he suddenly collapsed. Holding his abdomen on the floor while screaming in pain, my friend could not get up. His son and wife managed to eventually get him to the car and drive him to the emergency room.

He told me that the pain was unlike any he had ever experienced. To make matters worse, he couldn’t get any pain medicine while waiting to see the doctor, because he needed to see him in his natural state to determine what was wrong.

He got a CT scan, which showed tissue death in his gallbladder. He had gangrene, and they had to remove the organ right away.

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