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What is cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is inflammation of your gallbladder. Your gallbladder stores bile, which helps break down the fat that you eat. Your gallbladder also helps remove certain chemicals from your body. You may have a sudden, severe attack (acute cholecystitis) or several mild attacks (chronic cholecystitis).


What causes cholecystitis?

  • Gallstones
  • Gallbladder damage, such as from recent surgery or severe illness
  • A bacterial infection
  • Narrowing of the bile duct (bile flows from your gallbladder to your intestine through the bile duct)
  • One or more tumors

What increases my risk for cholecystitis?

  • Medicines, such as birth control pills or blood pressure medicines
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Rapid weight loss

What are the signs and symptoms of cholecystitis?

  • Pain in your abdomen, often after you eat a big meal with fatty foods
  • Lump on the right side of your abdomen
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever or chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes

How is cholecystitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your signs and symptoms. He will also check your abdomen to find out where it hurts. You may also need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests may show what is causing your symptoms.
  • An ultrasound or CT may show your gallbladder and if you have one or more gallstones. You may be given contrast liquid to help the gallbladder show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is cholecystitis treated?

Your treatment may depend on whether your cholecystitis is mild, moderate, or severe.

  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics treat a bacterial infection.
    • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
    • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Cholecystostomy is a procedure to drain your gallbladder. A hollow needle will be put into your gallbladder through your abdomen. The bile in your gallbladder will be drained through this needle. You may also have a tube inserted in your gallbladder to drain it over several days or weeks.
  • Cholecystectomy is surgery to remove your gallbladder.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain in your abdomen.
  • You urinate less than usual.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have pain when you urinate.
  • Your skin or eyes turn yellow.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

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