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Life without your gallbladder 

Acute cholecystitis is swelling (inflammation) of the gallbladder. It is a potentially serious condition that usually needs to be treated in hospital.

The main symptom of acute cholecystitis is a sudden sharp pain in the upper right side of your tummy (abdomen) that spreads towards your right shoulder.

The affected part of the abdomen is usually extremely tender and breathing deeply can make the pain worse.

Unlike some others types of abdominal pain, the pain associated with acute cholecystitis is usually persistent, and doesn’t go away within a few hours.

Some people may additional symptoms, such as a high temperature (fever), nausea and vomiting, sweating, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice) and/or a bulge in the abdomen

You should see your GP as soon as possible if you develop sudden and severe abdominal pain, particularly if the pain lasts longer than a few hours or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as jaundice and a fever.

If it’s not possible to contact your GP immediately, phone your local out-of-hours service or call NHS 111 for advice.

It’s important for acute cholecystitis to be diagnosed as soon as possible, because there is a risk that serious complications could develop if the condition is not treated promptly.

Who is affected

Acute cholecystitis is a relatively common complication of gallstones.

It is estimated that around ten to 15 per cent of adults in the UK have gallstones. These don’t usually cause any symptoms, but in a small proportion of people they can cause infrequent episodes of pain (known as biliary colic) or acute cholecystitis.

Treating acute cholecystitis

If you are diagnosed with acute cholecystitis, you will probably need to be admitted to hospital for treatment which might involve surgery.

Although some people who have had their gallbladder removed have reported symptoms of bloating and diarrhoea after eating certain foods, you can lead a perfectly normal life without a gallbladder.

The organ can be useful but it’s not essential, as your liver will still produce bile to digest food.