Diagnosis of Cholecystitis

Your child will undergo one or more of the following tests to diagnose cholecystitis:

  • Blood test. Your child’s doctor may use blood tests to check for signs of infection or issues with the gallbladder.
  • Imaging tests. Your child’s doctor may order imaging tests – such as an abdominal ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasound, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) or computerized tomography (CT) scan – to obtain detailed images of your child’s gallbladder and surrounding structures.
  • Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan. This test checks how bile moves through your child’s body. A HIDA scan can locate any blockages or issues with the bile ducts (tubes that go from the liver to the small intestines) or gallbladder.

Treatments for Cholecystitis

If your child is diagnosed with acute cholecystitis, they may need to stay in the hospital for treatment. If they have been diagnosed with chronic cholecystitis, and their pain is only occasional and well-controlled at home, they may be treated as an outpatient with planned surgery. If your child is admitted to the hospital, they receive one or more of the following treatments:

  • Avoiding food or drink for a period of time. This helps the inflamed (swollen) gallbladder rest.  
  • Receiving intravenous (IV) fluids. This helps prevent dehydration.
  • Receiving medications. Pain medications help control pain. Antibiotic medications help fight infection.
  • Undergoing endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This minimally invasive procedure removes gallstones from the gallbladder and bile ducts using X-ray images and a tube down the throat. The surgeon uses specialized tools to break up the gallstones into small pieces, and then removes them through the tube.

If your child has cholecystitis, the doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder, which is not a vital organ. This procedure is known as a cholecystectomy. Removing the gallbladder will avoid future cases of cholecystitis. Once a person has their gallbladder removed, there is no place for bile to collect in the body. Instead, the liver releases bile straight into the small intestine.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

Your child’s surgeon will likely use minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder. Your child will be under general anesthesia for the surgery (fully asleep). During this procedure, your child’s surgeon makes two to four small cuts (incisions) in your child’s abdomen that allow the surgeon to access the gallbladder. During surgery, the surgeon uses a specialized camera inserted through one of the incisions to guide the surgery. (If there is too much infection surrounding the gallbladder or it is difficult to access, your child’s surgeon may need to remove the gallbladder using an open-surgery technique). Once the gallbladder is removed, the surgeon removes the surgical tools and camera, and uses stitches and either surgical glue or bandages to close the incisions.

Your child will spend a few hours in a recovery area while the effects of anesthesia wear off. In most cases of laparoscopic cholecystectomy, your child will only need to stay in the hospital for one night for close monitoring and pain control.

After Surgery

Once at home following surgery, you will need to help keep your child’s wounds dry and clean. Your child should be seen by their surgeon for follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing. Your child should rest and avoid heavy lifting for at least one week, or when cleared by the surgeon.

Because the gallbladder is not essential to digestion, most people who have their gallbladder removed will not have any significant long-term complications. In some cases, your child may experience loose stool for a short time after surgery. If your child experiences this, speak with their doctor about possible temporary diet modifications, such as avoiding fatty or fried foods.

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.