What can cause acute cholecystitis?

Acute Cholecystitis is when your gallbladder is inflamed. The gallbladder is an organ that sits below the liver. It stores bile, which is produced in the liver. Your body uses bile to digest fats in the small intestine. 

Acute Cholecystitis happens when a digestive juice called bile gets trapped in your gallbladder causing bile build-up and irritation to the gallbladder. The causes of acute cholecystitis can be grouped into 2 main categories:

Calculous cholecystitis

Calculous cholecystitis is the most common, and usually less serious, type of acute cholecystitis. It accounts for around 95% of all cases. It is often caused  by such conditions as listed below.

  • Gallstones. Most often, cholecystitis is the result of hard particles that develop in your gallbladder (gallstones). Gallstones can block the tube (cystic duct) through which bile flows when it leaves the gallbladder. Bile builds up in the gallbladder, causing inflammation.
  • Gallbladder sludge. This is a thick material that can’t be absorbed by bile in your gallbladder. The sludge builds up in your gallbladder. It happens mainly to pregnant women or to people who have had a very fast weight loss.
  • Bile duct blockage. Stones or thickened bile and tiny particles (sludge) can block the bile duct and lead to cholecystitis. Kinking or scarring of the bile ducts can also cause blockage.

Acalculous cholecystitis

Acalculous cholecystitis is a less common, but usually more a serious type of acute cholecystitis. It usually develops as a complication of a serious illness, infection or injury that damages the gallbladder.

Acalculous cholecystitis can be caused by accidental damage to the gallbladder during major surgery, serious injuries or burns, sepsis, severe malnutrition among others as listed below.

  • Infection. AIDS and certain viral or bacterial infections can trigger gallbladder inflammation.
  • Severe illness. Very severe illness can damage blood vessels and decrease blood flow to the gallbladder, leading to cholecystitis.
  • Reduced blood supply to the gallbladder. This may happen if you have diabetes.
  • Tumor. A tumor may prevent bile from draining out of your gallbladder properly. This causes bile buildup that can lead to cholecystitis.