How can cholecystitis be treated?

Treatment of cholecystitis usually takes place in the hospital. Treatments may include:

  • Fasting, to rest the gallbladder.
  • IV fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Pain medication.
  • Antibiotics to treat infection.
  • Removing the gallbladder. This surgery, called a cholescystectomy, is usually performed by making tiny cuts (incisions) through the abdomen to insert a laparoscope (tiny camera) to see inside the abdomen and surgical instruments to remove the gallbladder. The gallbladder is usually removed within 24 to 48 hours of admission if you have a confirmed case of acute cholecystitis.
  • Draining the gallbladder to treat and prevent the spread of infection. This procedure, called percutaneous cholecystostomy, is usually reserved for those who are too ill to undergo surgery.
  • Removing gallstones in the area blocking the common bile duct. This procedure, done by an endoscopist, called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), is reserved for patients with a suspected or confirmed blocked common bile duct, and can clear the duct of stones and sludge.

What is it like to recover from gallbladder surgery?

Recovery from gallbladder surgery, when done laparoscopically, is usually uneventful. As with any surgery there can be minimal pain at the incision sites. Most patients are discharged from the hospital shortly after the surgery, and do not require additional testing or interventions. If the surgery is done through a larger wound (open surgery) then the recovery can be slower and require more days in the hospital.

Can I live without my gallbladder?

Yes, you can live a normal life without a gallbladder. Since the gallbladder’s main role is the storage of the bile, and bile is made continuously by the liver, you don’t need your gallbladder for normal digestion. Bile can still flow directly from your liver, through the common bile duct and into the small intestine.

What complications can occur if cholecystitis is not treated?

Complications can range from ongoing infection to possible death.

  • Severely Infected gallbladder: A blocked gallbladder that is extremely uncomfortable and painful. Without treatment, it could lead to an overwhelming infection, or even gangrene of the gallbladder.
  • Cholangitis: An acute infection of the main bile ducts and liver that can be extremely life-threating if not promptly treated.
  • Inflamed pancreas (Pancreatitis): Your common bile duct and the pancreatic duct share the same “valve” into the duodenum. If a gallstone blocks that valve, the potent pancreatic enzyme juice excreted by the pancreases gets backed up causing pancreatitis, which can also be severe and life threatening.

What if I have cholecystitis during pregnancy?

During early and later pregnancy cholecystitis can be treated by antibiotics. Surgery is usually a safe option during the second trimester, but can also be performed safely at any time if antibiotics fail to treat the infection

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