Gallbladder inflammation: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

A gallbladder infection (cholecystitis) is an inflammation of the wall of the gallbladder. The inflammation usually occurs at the outlet of the gallbladder. Bile fluid is temporarily stored in the gallbladder. This bile fluid flows through various channels to the gallbladder. Ultimately, the bile fluid ends up in the small intestine where the fluid is used for fat digestion.


  • Pain in right upper abdomen
  • Pain gets worse when breathing
  • Pain radiates to right shoulder blade
  • Upper right abdomen very painful when pressing abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Yield
  • Fever or elevation
  • Discoloured stools
  • Dark urine


Development of a gallbladder development

A gallbladder infection occurs when a stone blocks the connection between the gallbladder and the bile duct. This means that the bile can no longer escape. This causes the bile fluid to accumulate and then expand. Subsequently, inflammation of the intestinal wall occurs. This causes pain and often fever. The gallbladder inflammation can slowly disappear, eventually reducing the pain and reducing the fever. The inflammation can also get worse, making the patient sicker. This can cause a cyst to develop or the gallbladder to perforate. Both cases are life-threatening.

The function of a gallbladder

The gallbladder is a pouch in the shape of a pear and has a length of eight to ten centimeters. Bile fluid is stored in the bladder. The bile ultimately ends up in the liver through various channels. Bile fluid is a necessary fluid for the digestion of fats. The gallbladder actually only functions as an organ in which fluid is temporarily stored. Bile fluid can be recognized as a greasy yellow-green fluid. This juice contains water and mucus, but also the important substances bile salts, bilirubin and cholesterol. Bile salts restrict the fats, so that the small intestine processes the fat better. Bilirubin is also called bile pigment. This substance makes the poop look brown. A person can live without a gallbladder. When the gallbladder is missing, the bile fluid immediately flows via the liver to the small intestine.


If the doctor suspects a gallbladder infection, a physical examination and blood test will first be performed. Examination of the blood can show inflammation, but it can also be checked whether the liver is still functioning properly and whether there is reduced drainage of bile fluid. If a gallbladder infection is suspected, the patient is in most cases referred to the hospital. Ultrasound examination can be used to determine whether there are gallstones in the gallbladder or bile ducts. With inflammation, an outgrowth of the gallbladder wall can also be seen. An ultrasound does not always provide clarity. For additional imaging, the doctor can choose to make a CT scan or an MRI scan. These examinations allow the gallbladder and liver to be accurately mapped.


The treatment of gallbladder infection depends on the stage of the infection. When the inflammation is still young, surgery is performed to remove the inflamed gallbladder. Surgical intervention is not always possible in the event of a sudden inflammation. The patient is then admitted to hospital and must remain on bed rest. The client is given antibiotics and painkillers through an IV. In this way the gallbladder comes to rest. The gallbladder is usually removed after a few months via keyhole surgery, also known as keyhole surgery. Immediate surgery is necessary when an abscess develops in the gallbladder or when there is a gallbladder perforation. Gallstones can occasionally also be removed by ERCP. The doctor then enters the gallbladder with an endoscope (a tube with a camera). The doctor can grasp and remove the gallstones via a gripper on the tube.

Cause and risk factors

Cholecystitis is usually caused by a gallstone. The condition usually only occurs in patients aged 40 and over. Women are more likely to develop gallstone infections than men. Additional risk factors include obesity and eating a lot of high-fat products.

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