Cholecystitis – Symptoms and causes


Print Overview Gallbladder and bile duct Enlarge image Close Gallbladder and bile duct Gallbladder and bile duct The gallbladder serves as a reservoir for a yellow-green fluid produced in the liver, called bile. Bile flows from the liver into the gallbladder, where it’s held until needed during the digestion of food. When you eat, the gallbladder releases bile into the bile duct. It’s then carried to the upper part of the small intestine, called the duodenum, to help break down fat in food. Cholecystitis (ko-luh-sis-TIE-tis) is inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of the belly (abdomen), beneath the liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid (bile) that’s released into the small intestine. In most cases, gallstones blocking the tube leading out of the gallbladder cause cholecystitis. This results in a bile buildup that can cause inflammation. Other causes of cholecystitis include bile duct problems, tumors, serious illness and certain infections. If left untreated, cholecystitis can lead to severe, sometimes life-threatening complications, such as a gallbladder rupture. Treatment for cholecystitis often involves surgery to remove the gallbladder.Products & ServicesA Book: Mayo Clinic on Digestive Health SymptomsSymptoms of cholecystitis may include: Severe pain in your upper right or center abdomen Pain that spreads to your right shoulder or back Tenderness over your abdomen when it’s touched Nausea Vomiting Fever Cholecystitis symptoms often occur after a meal, particularly a large or fatty one. When to see a doctorMake an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms that worry you. If your abdominal pain is so severe that you can’t sit still or get comfortable, have someone drive you to the emergency room. Request an appointment There is a problem with information submitted for this request. Review/update the information highlighted below and resubmit the form. Get the latest health information from Mayo Clinic delivered to your inbox. Subscribe for free and receive your in-depth guide to digestive health, plus the latest on health innovations and news. You can unsubscribe at any time. Click here for an email preview. Email address ErrorEmail field is required ErrorInclude a valid email address Subscribe Learn more about Mayo Clinic’s use of data. To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail. Thank you for subscribing Your in-depth digestive health guide will be in your inbox shortly. You will also receive emails from Mayo Clinic on the latest health news, research, and care. If you don’t receive our email within 5 minutes, check your SPAM folder, then contact us at Sorry something went wrong with your subscription Please, try again in a couple of minutes Retry Causes Gallstones Enlarge image Close Gallstones Gallstones Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile that can form in your gallbladder. Bile is a digestive fluid produced in your liver and stored in your gallbladder. When you eat, your gallbladder contracts and empties bile into your small intestine (duodenum). Cholecystitis is when your gallbladder is inflamed. Gallbladder inflammation can be caused by: Gallstones. Most often, cholecystitis is the result of hard particles that develop in your gallbladder (gallstones). Gallstones can block the tube (cystic duct) through which bile flows when it leaves the gallbladder. Bile builds up in the gallbladder, causing inflammation. Tumor. A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly. This causes bile buildup that can lead to cholecystitis. Bile duct blockage. Stones or thickened bile and tiny particles (sludge) can block the bile duct and lead to cholecystitis. Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can also cause blockage. Infection. AIDS and certain viral infections can trigger gallbladder inflammation. Severe illness. Very severe illness can damage blood vessels and decrease blood flow to the gallbladder, leading to cholecystitis. Risk factorsHaving gallstones is the main risk factor for developing cholecystitis. ComplicationsIf untreated, cholecystitis can lead to a number of serious complications, including: Infection within the gallbladder. If bile builds up within your gallbladder, causing cholecystitis, the bile may become infected. Death of gallbladder tissue. Untreated cholecystitis can cause tissue in the gallbladder to die (gangrene). It’s the most common complication, especially among older people, those who wait to get treatment and those with diabetes. This can lead to a tear in the gallbladder, or it may cause your gallbladder to burst. Torn gallbladder. A tear (perforation) in your gallbladder may result from gallbladder swelling, infection or death of tissue. PreventionYou 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. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight makes you more likely to develop gallstones. To achieve a healthy weight, reduce calories and increase your 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 lower your risk, choose a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. By Mayo Clinic Staff Request an appointment Diagnosis & treatment Sept. 09, 2022 Print Show references Ferri FF. Cholecystitis. In: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2023. Elsevier; 2023. Accessed July 11, 2022. Sanford DE. An update on technical aspects of cholecystectomy. Surgical Clinic of North America. 2019; doi:10.1016/j.suc.2018.11.005. Acute cholecystitis. Merck Manual Professional Version. Accessed June 16, 2022. Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed June 16, 2022. Afdhal NH. Acalculous cholecystitis: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management. Accessed June 17, 2022. Zakko SF, et al. Acute calculous cholecystitis: Clinical features and diagnosis. Accessed June 17, 2022. Vollmer CM, et al. Treatment of acute calculous cholecystitis. Accessed June 17, 2022. AskMayoExpert. Biliary stone disease. Mayo Clinic; 2021. Miura F, et al. Tokyo Guidelines 2018: Initial management of acute biliary infection and flowchart for acute cholangitis. Journal of Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Science. 2018; doi:10.1002/jhbp.509. Rajan E (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. July 10, 2022. Related Associated Procedures Abdominal ultrasound CT scan HIDA scan Products & Services A Book: Mayo Clinic on Digestive Health CholecystitisSymptoms & causesDiagnosis & treatmentDoctors & departments Advertisement Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. Advertising & Sponsorship Policy Opportunities Ad Choices Mayo Clinic Press Check out these best-sellers and special offers on books and newsletters from Mayo Clinic Press. 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