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What Is Cholangitis?

Cholangitis is the inflammation of the bile duct system. The bile duct system helps drain bile away from the liver and gallbladder and into the small intestine. Cholangitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, which can be chronic or happen suddenly. The infection can be caused by:

  • Blockage in the bile duct systemKidney stones, tumor, blood clots or inflammation can create a barrier in the bile duct system that makes it difficult to carry bile away from the liver and gallbladder. 
  • Bacteria from the small intestine – Bacteria can back up into the bile duct system and cause an infection.
  • Blood infection – A blood infection may reach the bile duct system and cause an infection.


Symptoms of cholangitis can vary among individuals, ranging from pain that’s severe to an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen. The most common symptoms of cholangitis include:

  • Pain – Pain is usually felt in the upper right part of the abdomen.
  • Fever – Individuals with cholangitis may experience a fever and chills.
  • Jaundice – The skin and eyes may yellow to indicate a problem with the liver.
  • Clay-colored stool – Your stool may change color as bile is not exiting the body.
  • Low blood pressure – Blood pressure may drop during an infection.
  • Lethargy – Individuals with cholangitis may have difficulty getting out of bed or notice a drop in energy.

Treatment Options

Cholangitis requires a medical professional’s diagnosis. If you suspect you have cholangitis, contact a gastroenterologist to accurately diagnosis your condition and create a treatment plan.

Treatment for cholangitis includes:

  • Antibiotics – Antibiotics can help fight the infection.
  • Endoscopy – Your surgeon may insert a small camera attached to a wire to see the blockage and insert a stent to help drain the bile ducts.
  • Gallbladder surgery – The gallbladder may need to be removed in some cases of cholangitis.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of cholangitis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat cholangitis.