Home > Health A – Z > Cholecystitis

Cholecystitis

Inflammation of the gallbladder.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and National Library of Medicine)

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for people with acute cholecystitis

The liver produces bile which has many functions including elimination of waste processed by the liver and digestion of fat. The bile is temporarily stored in the gallbladder (an organ situated underneath the liver) before it reaches the small bowel. Concretions in the gallbladder are called gallstones. Gallstones are present in about 10% to 15% of the adult western population. Between 1% and 4% become symptomatic in a year. The symptoms include pain related to the gallbladder (biliary colic), inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), obstruction to the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder into the small bowel resulting in jaundice (yellowish discolourisation of the body usually most prominently noticed in the white of the eye, which turns yellow), bile infection (cholangitis), and inflammation of the pancreas, an organ which secretes digestive juices and harbours the insulin secreting cells which maintain blood sugar level (pancreatitis). Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is currently considered the best treatment option for people with symptomatic gallstones. This is generally performed by key‐hole surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). Cholecystitis (inflammation) of the gallbladder is one of the indications for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Cholecystitis can occur suddenly, with symptoms such as fever along with intense pain in the right upper tummy. This is called acute cholecystitis. In comparison, chronic cholecystitis is a smouldering inflammation of the gallbladder which presents with less intense pain in the right upper tummy. For many years, surgeons have preferred to perform laparoscopic cholecystectomy once the inflammation settles down completely (which usually takes about six weeks) because of the fear of higher complication rates including injury to the bile duct (a tube through which the bile flows from the gallbladder to the small bowel). Injury to the bile duct is a life‐threatening condition which requires urgent corrective operation in most instances. In spite of the corrective surgery, people have poor quality of life several years after the operation due to repeated instances of bile infection caused by obstruction to the flow of bile into the small bowel. Another reason for the surgeons' preference for delaying the operation is to avoid an open operation, as there has been a perception that early operation increases the risk of an open operation. However, delaying the surgery exposes the people to the risk of complications related to gallstones. The review authors set out to determine whether it is preferable to perform early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (within seven days of people presenting to doctors with symptoms) or delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy (more than six weeks after the initial admission). A systematic search of medical literature was performed in order to identify studies which provided information on the above question. The authors obtained information from randomised trials only since such types of trials provide the best information if conducted well. Two authors independently identified the trials and collected the information.

Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of cholecystectomy compared with observation/conservative management for preventing recurrent symptoms and complications in adults presenting with uncomplicated symptomatic gallstones or cholecystitis: a systematic review and economic evaluation

The study found that in many cases cholecystectomy is more effective than conservative treatment for the management of symptomatic gallstones or cholecystitis. However, conservative management may be a valid treatment option for individuals with uncomplicated symptoms. Further clinical trails are required to compare the effects and safety of conservative management with cholecystectomy in people presenting with uncomplicated symptomatic gallstones (biliary pain only) or cholecystitis

Gallstone Disease: Diagnosis and Management of Cholelithiasis, Cholecystitis and Choledocholithiasis

Gallstone disease is the term used in this guideline to refer to the presence of stones in the gallbladder or common bile duct and the symptoms and complications they cause. The following aspects of gallstone disease are included in this guideline: Asymptomatic gallbladder stones; symptomatic gallbladder stones, including biliary colic, acute cholecystitis, Mirrizi syndrome, and Xanthogranulomatous cholecystitis; common bile duct stones, including biliary colic, cholangitis, obstructive jaundice and gallstone pancreatitis; other complications of gallstones (such as gastric outlet obstruction, or gallstone ileus) and other conditions related to the gallbladder (such as gallbladder cancer, or biliary dyskinesia) are not included in this guideline.

See all (83)

Summaries for consumers

Early versus delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy for people with acute cholecystitis

The liver produces bile which has many functions including elimination of waste processed by the liver and digestion of fat. The bile is temporarily stored in the gallbladder (an organ situated underneath the liver) before it reaches the small bowel. Concretions in the gallbladder are called gallstones. Gallstones are present in about 10% to 15% of the adult western population. Between 1% and 4% become symptomatic in a year. The symptoms include pain related to the gallbladder (biliary colic), inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), obstruction to the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder into the small bowel resulting in jaundice (yellowish discolourisation of the body usually most prominently noticed in the white of the eye, which turns yellow), bile infection (cholangitis), and inflammation of the pancreas, an organ which secretes digestive juices and harbours the insulin secreting cells which maintain blood sugar level (pancreatitis). Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is currently considered the best treatment option for people with symptomatic gallstones. This is generally performed by key‐hole surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy). Cholecystitis (inflammation) of the gallbladder is one of the indications for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Cholecystitis can occur suddenly, with symptoms such as fever along with intense pain in the right upper tummy. This is called acute cholecystitis. In comparison, chronic cholecystitis is a smouldering inflammation of the gallbladder which presents with less intense pain in the right upper tummy. For many years, surgeons have preferred to perform laparoscopic cholecystectomy once the inflammation settles down completely (which usually takes about six weeks) because of the fear of higher complication rates including injury to the bile duct (a tube through which the bile flows from the gallbladder to the small bowel). Injury to the bile duct is a life‐threatening condition which requires urgent corrective operation in most instances. In spite of the corrective surgery, people have poor quality of life several years after the operation due to repeated instances of bile infection caused by obstruction to the flow of bile into the small bowel. Another reason for the surgeons' preference for delaying the operation is to avoid an open operation, as there has been a perception that early operation increases the risk of an open operation. However, delaying the surgery exposes the people to the risk of complications related to gallstones. The review authors set out to determine whether it is preferable to perform early laparoscopic cholecystectomy (within seven days of people presenting to doctors with symptoms) or delayed laparoscopic cholecystectomy (more than six weeks after the initial admission). A systematic search of medical literature was performed in order to identify studies which provided information on the above question. The authors obtained information from randomised trials only since such types of trials provide the best information if conducted well. Two authors independently identified the trials and collected the information.

External drainage of gallbladder for high‐risk surgical patients with acute calculous cholecystitis

Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is generally recommended for people with symptoms related to gallstones. People at high risk of surgical complications ‐ that is, elderly people and people with co‐existing illness ‐ can become very unwell as a result of inflammation of the gallbladder. During anaesthesia and surgery, the body's ability to tolerate stress is lowered, particularly in elderly people and people with co‐existing illness. Thus, surgery can be detrimental to these people who are already unwell. The optimal clinical management of these people is not known. External drainage of gallbladder contents with a tube using guidance from scans (percutaneous cholecystostomy) has been proposed as the one of the ways that these patients can be treated. By draining the contents of gallbladder, any infected material can be removed from the body and this might improve the health. Some consider percutaneous cholecystostomy as the only treatment required and perform cholecystectomy only in those who develop further complications while others recommend routine cholecystectomy following percutaneous cholecystostomy. We sought to review all the information available in the literature on this topic and obtained information from randomised clinical trials (studies designed to lower the risk of arriving at wrong conclusions due to researcher's favouritism or differences in the type of people undergoing the different treatments) to determine the optimal method of managing these people. Two review authors collected data independently as a way of quality control.

No evidence to assess surgical treatment in asymptomatic gallstones

Cholecystectomy is currently advised only for symptomatic gallstones. However, about 4% of patients with asymptomatic gallstones develop symptoms including cholecystitis, obstructive jaundice, pancreatitis, and gallbladder cancer. Literature search was performed for evidence from randomised clinical trials to find whether cholecystectomy was indicated in patients with silent (asymptomatic) gallstones. There is no randomised trial comparing cholecystectomy versus no cholecystectomy in silent gallstones. Further evaluation of observational studies, which measure outcomes such as obstructive jaundice, gallstone‐associated pancreatitis, and/or gall‐bladder cancer for sufficient duration of follow‐up is necessary before randomised trials are designed in order to evaluate whether cholecystectomy or no cholecystectomy is better for asymptomatic gallstones.

See all (13)

Terms to know

Cholecystectomy
An operation to remove the gallbladder.
Gallbladder
The organ that stores the bile made in the liver and that is connected to the liver by bile ducts. The gallbladder can store about 2 tablespoons of bile. Eating signals the gallbladder to empty the bile through the bile ducts to help the body digest fats.
Gallstones
Solid material that forms in the gallbladder or common bile duct. Gallstones are made of cholesterol or other substances found in the gallbladder. They may occur as one large stone or as many small ones, and vary from the size of a golf ball to a grain of sand.
Inflammation
Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.

More about Cholecystitis

Photo of an adult woman

Other terms to know: See all 4
Cholecystectomy, Gallbladder, Gallstones

Keep up with systematic reviews on Cholecystitis:

Create RSS

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...