Cholecystitis - Causes

Where in the body is the gallbladder?

liver

In the diagram you can see how the gallbladder lies under the liver on the right side of the upper tummy (abdomen).  You can see how close the liver and gallbladder are to the stomach and duodenum.

Bile contains various substances, including bile pigments, bile salts, cholesterol and lecithin. Bile is passed into tiny tubes called bile ducts. The bile ducts join together (like the branches of a tree) to form the main bile duct. Bile constantly drips down the bile ducts, into the main bile duct and then into the gut.

The gallbladder is like a pouch which comes off the main bile duct and fills with bile. It is a 'reservoir' which stores bile. The gallbladder squeezes (contracts) when we eat. This empties the stored bile back into the main bile duct. The bile passes along the remainder of the bile duct into the first part of the gut known as the duodenum.

How do gallstones cause cholecystitis?

Most people with gallstones do not have any symptoms or problems and do not know they have them. Commonly, the stones simply stay in the gallbladder and cause no harm. However, in some people, gallstones can cause problems. See separate leaflet called Gallstones for more details.

Gallstones causing cholecystitis

Cholecystitis is one problem that can occur with gallstones. About 19 in 20 cases of cholecystitis are thought to be caused by gallstones. What seems to happen is that a gallstone becomes stuck in the cystic duct (this is the tube that drains bile out from the gallbladder into the bile duct). Bile then builds up in the gallbladder, which becomes stretched (distended). Because of this, the walls of the gallbladder become inflamed. In some cases the inflamed gallbladder becomes infected. An infected gallbladder is more prone to lead to complications.

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Author:
Dr Nick Imm
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
4893 (v42)
Last Checked:
03 October 2016
Next Review:
03 October 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.