Cholecystitis FAQs

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Cholecystitis occurs when your gallbladder becomes inflamed. Gallbladder inflammation can be caused by:

#1 Gallstones

Most cholecystitis is the result of hard particles that develop in your gall bladder (gallstones) from imbalances in the substances in bile, such as cholesterol and bile salts. Gallstones can block the cystic duct, the tube through which bile flows when it leaves the gallbladder causing bile to build up and resulting in inflammation.

#2 Tumor

A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly; causing bile build up that can lead to cholecystitis.

#3 Bile duct blockage.

Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can cause blockages that lead to cholecystitis.

Signs and symptoms of cholecystitis may include:

  • Severe pain in your upper right abdomen
  • Pain that radiates from your right shoulder or back
  • Tenderness over your abdomen when it’s touched
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Cholecystitis signs and symptoms often occur after a meal, particularly a large or fatty meal.

You should consult a gastroenterologist in case of such symptoms.

Tests and Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose cholecystitis include:

Blood tests

Your doctor may order blood tests to look for signs of an infection or signs of gallbladder problems.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests, such as abdominal ultrasound or a computerized tomography (CT) scan can be used to create pictures of your gallbladder that may reveal signs of cholecystitis.

A scan that shows the movement of bile through your body. A hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan tracks the production and flow of bile from your liver to your small intestine and shows blockage. A HIDA scan involves injecting a radioactive dye into your body, which binds to the bile-producing cells so that it can be seen as it travels with the bile through the bile ducts.

Treatment for cholecystitis usually involves a hospital stay to stabilize the gallbladder inflammation and possible surgery.

Hospitalization

If you’re diagnosed with cholecystitis, you’ll likely be hospitalized. Your doctor will work to control your signs and symptoms and to control the inflammation in your gallbladder. Treatments may include:

  • Fasting. You may not be allowed to eat or drink at first in order to take stress off your inflamed gallbladder. So that you don’t become dehydrated, you may receive fluids through a vein in your arm.
  • Antibiotics to fight infection. If your gallbladder is infected, your doctor likely will recommend antibiotics.
  • Pain medications. These can help control pain until the inflammation in your gallbladder is relieved.

Your symptoms are likely to subside in a day or two.

Surgery to remove the gallbladder:

Because cholecystitis frequently recurs, most people with the condition eventually require gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy). The timing of surgery will depend on the severity of your symptoms and your overall risk of problems during and after surgery. If you’re at low surgical risk, you may have surgery within 48 hours or during your hospital stay.

Prevention

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

  • Lose weight slowly. Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones. If you need to lose weight, aim to lose 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to about 1 kilogram) a week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increase the risk of gallstones. To achieve a healthy weight, reduce calories and increase the physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight by continuing to eat well and exercise.
  • Choose a healthy diet. Diets high in fat and low in fiber may increase the risk of gallstones. To reduce your risk of gallstones, choose a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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