What is cholangitis?

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Cholangitis: Overview

Cholangitis (say "koh-lan-JY-tus") is an infection in the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and the small intestine. The gallbladder stores bile, which helps the body digest food. Sometimes a gallstone gets stuck in the tubes, and bile cannot get out. This can lead to an infection. If the infection is not treated, it may damage your liver or spread through your blood vessels. Other medical problems also can cause a blockage of the bile tubes and lead to cholangitis.

You will take antibiotics to treat the infection. You may also need a special test to look for and remove a gallstone stuck in the bile tubes. You may also have a tube put in the gallbladder to drain the bile. When the infection is gone, you may need surgery to take out your gallbladder. This will prevent more gallstones and another infection.

How can you care for yourself when you have cholangitis?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you have a drain, take care of it as you have been instructed.

Cholangitis: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe belly pain.
  • You have a fever not caused by the flu or some other illness that you know you have.
  • You are vomiting or feel sick to your stomach.
  • You are confused, or your confusion gets worse.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow or get more yellow.
  • Your urine is dark yellow-brown, or your stools are light-colored.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.