Acute cholecystitis: Treatment

Treatment

Seek immediate medical attention for severe abdominal pain.

Cholecystolithiasis

In the emergency room, patients with acute cholecystitis are given fluids through a vein and antibiotics to fight infection.

Although cholecystitis may clear up on its own, surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is usually needed when inflammation continues or recurs. Surgery is usually done as soon as possible, however some patients will not need surgery right away.

Nonsurgical treatment includes pain medicines, antibiotics to fight infection, and a low-fat diet (when food can be tolerated).

Emergency surgery may be necessary if gangrene (tissue death), perforation, pancreatitis, or inflammation of the common bile duct occurs.

Occasionally, in very ill patients, a tube may be placed through the skin to drain the gallbladder until the patient gets better and can have surgery.

Prognosis (Expectations)

Patients who have surgery to remove the gallbladder usually do very well.

Complications

* Empyema (pus in the gallbladder)
* Gangrene (tissue death) of the gallbladder
* Injury to the bile ducts draining the liver (a rare complication of cholecystectomy)
* Pancreatitis
* Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdomen)

Calling Your Health Care Provider

Call your health care provider if severe abdominal pain persists.

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of cholecystitis recur after an acute episode.

Prevention

Removal of the gallbladder and gallstones will prevent further attacks. Follow a low-fat diet if you are prone to gallstone attacks.

References

Siddiqui T. Early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for acute cholecystitis: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Surg. 2008;195(1):40-47.

Chari RS, Shah SA. Biliary system. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2008:chap. 54.

Afdhal N. Diseases of the gallbladder and bile ducts. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap. 159.


Review Date : 7/6/2009
Reviewed By : George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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