Cholecystitis - Symptoms and diagnosis

Authored by Dr Nick Imm, 03 Oct 2016

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 03 Oct 2016

The symptoms of cholecystitis tend to be quite characteristic. They usually come on rather quickly and you can feel very unwell.

  • Pain in the upper tummy (abdomen) - the main symptom. It is usually worse on the right side, under the ribs. The pain may travel (radiate) to the back or to the right shoulder and tends to last several hours. The pain tends to be worse if you breathe in deeply.
  • You may also develop a feeling of sickness (nausea).
  • You may be sick (vomit).
  • You may have a high temperature (fever).

If you are examined by a healthcare professional, they may find you have a positive 'Murphy's sign', meaning that you notice an increase in pain when the doctor places their hand under your ribs on the right hand side, and then asks you to take a deep breath.

An ultrasound scan is a generally painless test which uses sound waves to scan the tummy (abdomen). It takes around 30 minutes to complete the scan. An ultrasound scan can usually detect gallstones and also whether the wall of the gallbladder is thickened (as occurs with cholecystitis). If the diagnosis is in doubt then other more detailed scans may be done.

In hospital you may also have the following tests:

  • Monitoring of your temperature, pulse and blood pressure.
  • Assessment of your urine output.
  • Blood tests.
  • A computerised tomography (CT) scan of the tummy (abdomen).

The symptoms of cholecystitis are quite characteristic but other conditions can sometimes appear similar. These include appendicitis, a stomach ulcer, pancreatitis and pneumonia. All of these can make you seriously unwell so it's important to get the diagnosis right. The tests performed in hospital will help to check the diagnosis.

Further reading and references

I'm scheduled for surgery Jan 2 to have gallbladder removed the last 2 weeks pains been very bad I been in and out of er pain was getting really bad so I went in I have a gallstone in neck of...

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