Gallbladder inflammation: symptoms, causes and treatment

Gallbladder inflammation symptoms include pain in the abdomen, on the right side of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Other symptoms of gallbladder inflammation include fever, nausea and vomiting. Acute gallbladder inflammation is a sudden inflammation of the gallbladder that causes severe abdominal pain. In this condition, the wall of the gallbladder becomes inflamed. The gallbladder is almost completely hidden at the bottom of the liver. Only when the gallbladder is enlarged or inflamed can it be felt on palpation (by the doctor). What to do if you have a gallbladder infection? For mild complaints you can be treated with painkillers and for serious complaints you will be treated in the hospital. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the gallbladder. The bile is produced in the liver. A person can therefore live very well without a gallbladder. There are a number of measures you can take to prevent the formation of gallstones, which reduces the risk of gallbladder infection.

  • Function of the gallbladder
  • Gallbladder inflammation
  • Causes of acute gallbladder inflammation
  • Gallstones
  • Other causes
  • Complications
  • Symptoms of acute gallbladder inflammation
  • Phenomena
  • Gallbladder perforation
  • Diagnosis and research
  • Blood tests
  • Visual art investigation
  • Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan
  • Treatment of acute gallbladder inflammation
  • Surgery to remove the gallbladder
  • Prognosis
  • Check
  • Precautionary actions
  • Lose weight slowly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Choose a healthy diet

Location of the gallbladder in the body / Source: Decade3d – anatomy online/Shutterstock.com

Function of the gallbladder

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped, muscular sac located beneath the liver. The gallbladder stores bile, which is produced by liver cells. Bile plays a role in our fat digestion and gives color to our stools. The gallbladder is not indispensable. If the gallbladder is removed, bile can flow directly from the liver into the duodenum.

Gallbladder inflammation

Acute gallbladder inflammation, also called acute cholecystitis , is a sudden inflammation of the gallbladder that causes severe abdominal pain. In this condition, the wall of the gallbladder becomes inflamed. In many cases, the outlet of the gallbladder becomes blocked by gallstones, as a result of which the digestive juice bile accumulates in the gallbladder and inflammation occurs. The closure can also cause a bacterial infection.

Causes of acute gallbladder inflammation

Gallstones

In approximately 90% of cases, acute gallbladder inflammation is caused by gallstones in the gallbladder. Gallstones are more common in women than in men. Gallstones are more common in people over forty. Risk factors for developing gallstones include being overweight and having a high-fat diet.

Other causes

In some cases, gallbladder inflammation occurs without gallstones, for example due to a serious illness or – only rarely – tumors of the gallbladder. It is also possible that bacteria that have settled in the gallbladder are the cause. This may include colibacilli or staphylococci.

Complications

Gallbladder inflammation can lead to a number of serious complications, including an infection in the gallbladder. Untreated gallbladder inflammation can also cause the gallbladder tissue to die, which in turn can lead to a tear in the gallbladder that can cause the gallbladder to burst. A rupture in the gallbladder can be caused not only by an infection, but also by an enlargement of the gallbladder.

Stomachache / Source: Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock.com

Symptoms of acute gallbladder inflammation

Phenomena

The main symptom of acute gallbladder inflammation is pain in the abdomen: right in the abdomen, just below the ribs. Other symptoms that may occur include:

  • pain in the right shoulder;
  • nausea and vomiting or upper abdominal discomfort, especially after eating fat or vegetables such as cabbage;
  • fever and chills
  • to burp;
  • a burning pain in the stomach area and behind the breastbone;
  • jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin);
  • discoloration of stool (because bile no longer comes in), while the urine turns dark brown.

Gallbladder perforation

In rare cases, the gallbladder is perforated by the bacterial inflammation, which can cause peritonitis. Furthermore, gallbladder inflammation can be accompanied by a sudden inflammation of the pancreas.

Collection of blood for research / Source: Istock.com/Jovanmandic

Diagnosis and research

Diagnostic tests that may be used to diagnose gallbladder inflammation include:

Blood tests

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

Visual art investigation

Examination may be necessary to visualize the gallbladder, such as abdominal ultrasound or computed tomography (CT scan).

Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan

A HIDA scan is an imaging test in which the doctor examines the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into another. The ‘tracer’ thus provides a good picture of bile production and bile flow. The examination takes several hours and takes place on an outpatient basis.

Treatment of acute gallbladder inflammation

In case of severe abdominal pain, always seek medical assistance. For mild complaints, the patient can be treated with painkillers and for severe complaints, the patient is treated in the hospital with intravenous fluids, painkillers and an antibiotic. Sometimes it is medically necessary to remove the gallbladder.

Surgery to remove the gallbladder

Because gallbladder inflammation or cholecystitis often recurs, it is often ultimately necessary to remove the gallbladder through surgery (cholecystectomy). Cholecystectomy is usually performed with a small video camera on the end of a flexible tube. This allows the surgeon to look inside your abdomen and use special surgical instruments to remove the gallbladder (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). The instruments and camera are placed through four incisions in the abdomen, and during the operation the surgeon watches a monitor to guide the instruments to the right place. Open surgery, in which a long incision is made in your abdomen, is rarely necessary.

Once your gallbladder is removed, bile flows directly from the liver into your small intestine. Bile is no longer stored in the gallbladder. You don’t need a gallbladder to live normally.

Prognosis

Removing the gallbladder and gallstones prevents further bile attacks. The bile is produced by the liver. That is why a person can live well without a gallbladder. After removal of the gallbladder, the bile fluid flows directly into the small intestine. If the gallbladder perforates, mortality (mortality) is 30%. Untreated acute acalculous cholecystitis (that is acute cholecystitis in someone who does not have gallstones) is life-threatening and is associated with up to a 50% risk of death.

Check

Patients who have undergone cholecystectomy should return for follow-up within 2 weeks of hospital discharge. Patients should be asked about the presence or absence of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, as well as their ability to ingest food and fluids. The wound should be checked for erythema (redness), discharge, or pain. In addition, there should be no signs of jaundice.

In patients who have had percutaneous cholecystostomy performed, provided that no gallstones are present and the cholangiogram showed a patent gallbladder duct, the tube should be removed in 6 to 8 weeks.

Precautionary actions

You can reduce the risk of cholecystitis or gallbladder inflammation by taking the following measures to prevent gallstones:

Lose weight slowly / Source: Istock.com/VladimirFLoyd

Lose weight slowly

Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of gallstones. If you want to lose weight, aim to lose no more than 0.5 to about 1 kilo per week.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight increases the risk of gallstones. To achieve a healthy weight, you need to reduce your calorie intake and burn more calories through increased physical activity. Maintain a healthy weight by eating a good, healthy diet and exercising daily.

Choose a healthy diet

Diets high in fat and low in fiber can increase the risk of gallstones. To reduce the risk of gallstones, choose a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

read more

  • Gallbladder pain: symptoms, cause and treatment
  • Gallstones: symptoms, causes, treatment and removal
  • Abdominal pain in the lower abdomen: left/right, causes in men and women
  • Gallbladder disorders: causes of gallbladder disorders
  • Removing Gallstones: Diet, ERCP and Surgery