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What Is Cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis is the most common type of gallbladder disease that causes inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ on the right side of your abdomen, below your liver. It stores bile, which is made in the liver. Bile's function is to help with digestion and absorption of fats.

Gallstones are the main cause of cholecystitis. These are hard particles in your gallbladder. Cholecystitis happens when gallstones block the passage of bile from the gallbladder to the bile ducts.

Risk Factors

Cholecystitis risk factors include:

  • Age 40 or older
  • Being female
  • Hormonal changes from birth control pills or pregnancy
  • Blockage caused by stones, tumor, scarring or infection
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Family history/genetics


Acute (severe and sudden) cholecystitis symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in your upper right or center abdomen
  • Steady pain lasting for hours
  • Discomfort when you press your abdomen
  • Pain that spreads to your back or below your right shoulder blade
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

Treatment Options

Cholecystitis treatment usually requires a cholecystectomy — surgical gallbladder removal. Therapies include:

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy — This is the most common treatment. It is a minimally invasive procedure involving smaller incisions and a faster recovery. Surgeons remove your gallbladder using a laparoscope — a long, thin instrument with a tiny video camera and surgical tools. Usually, you can leave the hospital on the same day or the next morning.
  • Open cholecystectomy — If you have certain more complex conditions, you may require traditional open surgery under general anesthetic. This requires a larger cut in your abdomen and a longer recovery time. You may require 2 to 3 days of hospitalization and a month or more until full recovery.
  • Cholecystostomy tube — A drain is placed directly into the gallbladder via a small hole in the skin to drain the bile. This is usually done if you have had symptoms of cholecystitis for a longer period of time or if surgery is thought to be too risky.
  • Medications — This is treatment done with antibiotics and only offered when symptoms are mild.

Ready for an Appointment?

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

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