The gallbladder is an expandable pear-shaped organ located beneath your liver. The gallbladder stores bile — a dark green fluid that helps your body digest and absorb food.
After you eat, your gallbladder releases bile into your cystic duct. From there, bile moves down the common bile duct and enters your small intestine.
Sometimes this process is inhibited and bile builds up inside your gallbladder, causing it to become larger and inflamed. This buildup can lead to the creation of gallstones, or gallbladder calculi. Gallstones can also form from other substances in the body, such as calcium, bilirubin, or cholesterol.
These gallstones are not an issue as long as they are small in number and remain in the gallbladder space. However, if a stone blocks the cystic duct, inflammation and infection may occur.
Acute cholecystitis is an inflammation of the gallbladder. Most cases of acute cholecystitis are caused by gallstones.
If you have calculus of gallbladder with acute cholecystitis, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
On their own, gallstones don’t always lead to symptoms. Eighty percent of people have “silent gallstones” with no symptoms. However, pain is one of the most distinct symptoms of acute cholecystitis. People with calculus of gallbladder with acute cholecystitis will also have pain.
You will usually feel it in the upper right area of your abdomen. Pain may also occur between your shoulder blades or radiate from the abdominal area to your right shoulder.
The onset of the pain is often sudden and may be intense. Often the pain is constant. It can last for a few minutes or hours, and may become worse after you eat.
The exact cause of gallstones hasn’t been pinpointed. They may form as a result of too much cholesterol or bilirubin in your bile. Another possible cause is a malfunctioning gallbladder that doesn’t empty bile properly, leading to bile that’s overly concentrated.
In about 90 percent of cases, acute cholecystitis is caused by gallstones blocking your cystic duct. It may also be caused by tumors or other problems with your bile duct, which may include:
However, in most cases the infection that causes acute cholecystitis is a result of gallstones, not the cause.
Gallstones and acute cholecystitis share many of the same risk factors, such as:
- high-fat diet
- high-cholesterol diet
- low-fiber diet
- advanced age
- being a woman
- being overweight or obese
- rapid weight loss
- certain drugs
Any of the above can increase your chances of developing calculus of gallbladder with acute cholecystitis.
On their own, gallstones are also considered a risk factor for acute cholecystitis.
The following tests may be helpful in diagnosing calculus of gallbladder with acute cholecystitis:
Blood tests provide your doctor with a complete blood count (CBC), and a liver function panel helps them assess your liver function. The results can help your doctor learn if your bile flow is blocked.
An ultrasonography is usually the first step to reaching a diagnosis of gallstone disease or acute cholecystitis. It uses sound waves to create an image of your gallbladder and bile ducts.
X-rays are often done to rule out other conditions.
Oral cholecystogram (OCG)
An oral cholecystogram (OCG) involves swallowing pills containing a dye before your X-ray is taken. The dye will help your doctor detect any problems with your gallbladder.
Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan
A HIDA scan can help your doctor track and identify an obstruction in your bile flow. Your doctor will give you an intravenous (IV) injection of a solution containing radioactive tracers. Then they will use a special camera to view the solution move through your body.
Computed tomography (CT)
CT scans can create cross-sectional images of your abdomen. These images allow your doctor to detect gallstones.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
MRI scans use a magnetic field and radio waves to create an image of your abdomen.
The first step in treating calculus of gallbladder with acute cholecystitis is to control inflammation caused by the acute cholecystitis. Your doctor may prescribe:
- antibiotics to prevent or treat infection
- medications to temporarily control your pain
- fasting to relieve the gallbladder from stress
After your condition is stabilized, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder. This is the only guaranteed way to prevent cholecystitis from happening again.
This procedure is known as a cholecystectomy. A cholecystectomy may be performed laparoscopically or through open surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery is performed by making small incisions in your abdomen.
A small camera and some surgical instruments are then inserted through the incision. The camera displays the inside of your abdomen on a monitor. Your surgeon can then guide the instruments to remove the gallbladder.
Laparoscopic surgery is preferred over classic open surgery because it’s done with small incisions. You’ll recover faster from small incisions. People also prefer this option because it leaves small scars, rather than a large one across the abdomen.
You don’t need your gallbladder for your body to function properly. However, it’s possible to reduce your chances of developing gallstones and acute cholecystitis by:
- losing weight slowly if you are overweight or obese
- maintaining a healthy diet that is rich in fiber and low in fat
- eating more fruits and vegetables