Gallbladder wall thickening can be a sign of a cancerous or noncancerous gallbladder condition. Some conditions other than gallbladder cancer, like hepatitis, can also cause gallbladder thickening.
Your gallbladder is a small organ found beneath your liver. Thickening of your gallbladder wall may be a sign of a medical condition starting inside or outside of your gallbladder.
A thickened gallbladder wall is a classic sign of a condition called “chronic cholecystitis,” a long-term inflammation of your gallbladder often related to gallstones.
Changes in your gallbladder wall can also be a sign of gallbladder cancer. In cases of cancer, often only one small part of your gallbladder wall is enlarged. Conditions that start outside the gallbladder, such as hepatitis and kidney failure, have also been linked to gallbladder wall thickening.
Read on for more information about gallbladder wall thickening, including causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Learn more about your gallbladder.
A thickened gallbladder wall isn’t a medical diagnosis by itself but a sign of other conditions. These conditions may start in your gallbladder or other parts of your body, such as your liver or kidneys.
Gallbladder wall thickening may be a sign of many conditions that start inside or outside the gallbladder. The thickening may be contained to one section of your gallbladder or spread throughout the gallbladder.
Thickening throughout the gallbladder is
Gallbladder wall thickening may be a sign of noncancerous gallbladder
- chronic cholecystitis, inflammation of your gallbladder
- adenomyomatosis, thickening of an unknown cause
- xanthogranulomatous cholecystitis, a variation of chronic cholecystitis
Conditions that start outside of the gallbladder and can cause thickening of the gallbladder wall include:
- congestive heart failure
- kidney failure
Gallbladder wall thickening may also be a sign of gallbladder carcinoma or other types of gallbladder cancer, such as cancer that has spread from other areas or lymphoma.
A thickened gallbladder may not cause symptoms itself, but the underlying cause may cause symptoms. About
- cramping or sharp pain in your right middle to upper abdomen
- jaundice, a yellowing of your skin and eyes
- clay-colored stools
- nausea and vomiting
Gallbladder cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until the cancer grows large or spreads, but it can cause symptoms similar to gallstones or cholecystitis, as well as:
- a lump in your abdomen
- abdominal swelling
Thicker gallbladder walls may also increase the chances of needing to convert minimally invasive gallstone surgery to open surgery.
The main way that doctors detect irregularities in your gallbladder is through imaging. An ultrasound is usually the
You may receive a contrast-enhanced ultrasound, in which doctors inject a dye to improve the clarity of the image. You may also receive a variation of ultrasound called “shear wave elastography.”
- if ultrasound results are inconclusive
- to stage gallbladder cancer
- if you have complications of gallbladder inflammation
Additional tests, such as a biopsy or an endoscope, may also be needed to diagnose the underlying cause.
Treatment options for thickening of the gallbladder wall depend on the underlying cause.
- radiation therapy
Treatment for cholecystitis depends on the underlying cause, and it may include:
- oral medications to dissolve gallstones
- pain medication
- surgery, including gallbladder removal
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, especially the use of the term “female.”
Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this source didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
- porcelain gallbladder, in which gallbladder walls are covered in calcium
- female sex
- increasing age
- Hispanic or Native American ethnicities (in the United States)
- bile duct cysts or scarring
- gallbladder polyps
- family history
Risk factors for chronic cholecystitis include:
- female sex
- pregnancy or hormone therapy
- increasing age
- Hispanic and Native American ethnicity
- rapid weight loss or gain
The outlook for people who have gallbladder wall thickening depends on the underlying cause.
Based on the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data, the 5-year relative
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Learn more about survival rates for gallbladder cancer.
There’s an excellent outlook for the
Gallbladder wall thickening may be a sign of an underlying medical condition affecting your gallbladder or another part of your body.
The thickening may be contained to one part of your gallbladder or spread throughout. Thickening throughout the gallbladder is often a sign of an inflammatory condition.
It’s essential to get your condition properly diagnosed if you have gallbladder wall thickening because it can be a sign of a serious condition, such as gallbladder cancer, but some causes of wall thickening are relatively easy to treat.