Children's Hospital Colorado
Pediatric Surgery


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What is cholecystitis?

The gallbladder is an organ that stores bile, a fluid that helps break down fats from food. An inflamed gallbladder is called cholecystitis. This condition can be acute (happen suddenly) or chronic (occur over time).

What causes cholecystitis?

Cholecystitis, or gallbladder inflammation can happen when gallstones obstruct the outflow of bile. This obstruction can happen either in the duct coming out of the gallbladder (cystic duct) or the duct draining the liver (bile duct). Gallstones are small, stone-like deposits that can occur in the gallbladder for various reasons. Occasionally the gallbladder can become inflamed when no gallstones are present. This is usually due to some other illness that will hospitalization.

Who gets cholecystitis?

Children who are prone to developing gallstones are more likely to get cholecystitis. Women are about twice as likely to develop gallstones as men. Other risk factors include:

  • Abnormalities in the production of red blood cells
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Losing weight rapidly
  • Using oral contraceptives
  • Having a family history of gallstones
  • Eating diets high in fat and cholesterol
  • Receiving prolonged parenteral nutrition (being fed intravenously)
  • Having diabetes
  • Having gene-environment interactions (a person has different reactions than others to various things in their environment)

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