Gallbladder Inflammation, Gallstones and Treatment Options

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin physicians treat many diseases of the gallbladder including:

  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) — a common condition, acute cholecystitis is a sudden inflammation of the gallbladder that causes severe abdominal pain (right upper quadrant epigastric pain). In most cases, it is caused by gallstones in the gallbladder, which obstruct the duct leading from the gallbladder to the common bile duct. Severe illness, alcohol abuse and tumors of the gallbladder can also cause cholecystitis. When repeated attacks of acute cholecystitis occur, a person is said to have chronic cholecystitis.

  • Gallstones (cholelithiasis) — stones located within the gallbladder. While most stones are of a mixture of cholesterol and bile salts, some gallstones are cholesterol stones that form when the liver begins secreting bile that is abnormally saturated with cholesterol. The excess cholesterol crystallizes and forms stones which are stored in the gallbladder.

  • Gallbladder cancer — a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the tissues of the gallbladder.

Gallbladder Disease Treatments

For benign (non-cancerous) disease, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be done. This involves removing the gallbladder using laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery that uses a camera and instruments inserted through small incisions in the abdomen. This is a common procedure that is often performed on an outpatient basis. Once the gallbladder is removed, bile travels from the liver directly into the small intestine instead of being stored in the gallbladder.

For gallbladder cancer, removal of the gallbladder usually offers the best hope. A simple cholecystectomy (above) may be done if the tumor is small and has not spread to the deeper layers of gallbladder. If the cancer is more advanced, an extended cholecystectomy may be done to remove the gallbladder, surrounding liver tissue, lymph nodes and sometimes the bile duct.


For gastroenterology or hepatology treatment:

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