Cholecystitis refers to inflammation of the gallbladder. Cholecystitis may be either acute or chronic. Acute cholecystitis results from blockage of the outlet of the gallbladder, usually by a gallstone. This leads to a build up of concentrated bile in the gallbladder that may become infected. Many patients with cholecystitis complain of abdominal pain in the upper-right quadrant which usually commences after a meal and can last from minutes to days, but which usually lasts for less than 24 hours. This pain often passes into the back and up to the right shoulder blade.
Other symptoms include fever, chills, nausea and vomiting. The abdomen may be very tender to touch beneath the right ribs. Patients with these symptoms should see their doctor whom may order blood tests, an abdominal ultrasound or possibly a CT scan of the abdomen. The usual treatment for attacks of acute cholecystitis is removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy), usually by laparoscopic surgery.
Intermittent relapses of acute cholecystitis can lead to chronic disease, resulting in a shrunken, scarred gallbladder which is no longer capable of concentrating bile. Symptoms of chronic cholecystitis include abdominal pain, indigestion, nausea and excess belching. An abdominal ultrasound test reliably diagnoses the condition in the majority of cases; but, as with acute cholecystitis, other tests may also be performed. The best treatment for chronic cholecystitis is removal of the gallbladder. A low fat diet and weight reduction may also help.