The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ located on the upper right side of your abdomen (belly), under your liver. The gallbladder holds bile (a fluid that helps with digestion) that it releases into your small intestine. Cholecystitis occurs when the gallbladder becomes inflamed (swollen).

There are two types of cholecystitis:

  • Acute cholecystitis. This occurs when the gallbladder becomes suddenly inflamed.
  • Chronic cholecystitis. This occurs when the gallbladder is inflamed for a long period of time, such as weeks or months. Long-term inflammation of the gallbladder can cause scarring and damage to the organ.

Symptoms of Cholecystitis

Signs and symptoms of acute cholecystitis can include:

  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Nausea
  • Pain that radiates to your child’s right shoulder or back
  • Sharp pain in your child’s upper right or middle area of the abdomen
  • Tenderness when your child’s abdomen is touched
  • Vomiting

The main symptom of chronic cholecystitis is mild to moderate pain in the upper right or middle area of the abdomen that comes and goes (intermittent pain). Some people with chronic cholecystitis won’t experience any symptoms.

When to see a doctor

If your child’s abdominal pain is so bad that they cannot stand up straight or if they are vomiting and unable to keep food down, you should contact their doctor right away or go to the nearest emergency room.

Causes of Cholecystitis

Inflammation of the gallbladder – or cholecystitis – can be caused by:

  • Gallstones. The most common cause of cholecystitis is when gallstones (hard particles of wastes and minerals that form in the gallbladder) block the bile duct and cause inflammation.
  • Bile duct block. Scarring of a bile duct (tubes that go from the liver to the small intestines) can lead to blockages that cause cholecystitis. Scarring can result from a bile duct stone (hard mineral deposit), prior bile duct surgery, or infection or inflammation of the bile duct.
  • Blood vessel problems. If your child has blood vessel damage, it can decrease blood flow to the gallbladder. This can lead to cholecystitis.
  • Tumor. If your child has a tumor near their gallbladder, it may be preventing bile from properly draining out of the gallbladder.

Who’s at risk

Having a history of the following factors can increase your child’s risk for developing cholecystitis:

  • Gallstones
  • Infection or inflammation of the bile ducts
  • Bile duct stones
  • Bile duct surgery
  • Blood vessel damage
  • A tumor near the gallbladder

The following factors can increase your risk of developing gallstones:

  • High-fat diet
  • Obesity (having a body mass index, or BMI, of over 30)
  • Pregnancy
  • Quick weight loss
  • Birth control medication (“the pill”)

Request an Appointment

Contact an Orlando Health doctor

If you suspect that your child may have cholecystitis, make an appointment with an Orlando Health pediatrician today so your child can start on the road to improved health.