How is cholecystitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare professional will ask about your symptoms. They may order blood work to check your white blood cell count and how well your liver is working. A higher than normal white blood cell count is a sign of an infection, inflammation, or an abscess.

Imaging tests that could be ordered include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to examine the gallbladder and the bile ducts. It helps identify signs of inflammation in your gallbladder, the presence of gallstones, and thickening or swelling of the gallbladder wall.
  • Hepatobiliary nuclear imaging (HIDA scan): This is an imaging test that involves an injected radioactive substance. A gamma camera sees the radiation as it moves through the different tracts of the digestive system. If that substance doesn’t enter your gallbladder, then the healthcare provider knows the organ is blocked, indicating cholecystitis. This test can also detect the function of the gallbladder and its ability to eject the bile once stimulated. This is called the ejection fraction of the gallbladder, which is considered normal when it is above 30-35%.
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP): This type of MRI shows details of your liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, structures and ducts of the pancreas as well. It can show gallstones, inflammation or blockage of the bile ducts and gallbladder and if there is any inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Abdominal Computed Tomography (CT Scan): This X-ray test shows details of your liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. It shows inflammation of the gallbladder.

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