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Pediatric Cholecystitis Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Steven M Schwarz, MD, FAAP, FACN, AGAF; Chief Editor: Carmen Cuffari, MD  more...
Updated: Jul 21, 2016

Diagnostic Considerations

The differential diagnosis of cholecystitis is based on the presenting symptom of right upper quadrant abdominal pain. In the pediatric population, consider the following conditions in addition those listed in Differentials:

  • Biliary colic
  • Cholangitis
  • Rupture of the gallbladder
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Renal colic
  • Gastritis
  • Pleurisy
  • Fitz-Hugh and Curtis syndrome (gonococcal perihepatitis)
  • Hepatic abscess
  • Abdominal tumor
  • Pyelonephritis

Infants with cholecystitis may present with irritability, jaundice, and acholic stools. Because of young age and differing presentation, consider congenital bile duct anomalies, such as biliary atresia and paucity of intrahepatic bile ducts.

Acalculous cholecystitis usually occurs in children with preexisting systemic illness and, therefore, may be masked by other conditions and analgesics. Be sensitive to the possibility of cholecystitis if systemic infection and multiple risk factors are present.

Differential Diagnoses

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Steven M Schwarz, MD, FAAP, FACN, AGAF Professor of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital at Downstate, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center

Steven M Schwarz, MD, FAAP, FACN, AGAF is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Nutrition, American Association for Physician Leadership, New York Academy of Medicine, Gastroenterology Research Group, American Gastroenterological Association, American Pediatric Society, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Andre Hebra, MD Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine; Surgeon-in-Chief, Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital

Andre Hebra, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, Florida Medical Association, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Children's Oncology Group, International Pediatric Endosurgery Group, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, South Carolina Medical Association, Southeastern Surgical Congress, Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Carmen Cuffari, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology/Nutrition, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Carmen Cuffari, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Prometheus Laboratories for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Abbott Nutritionals for speaking and teaching.

Additional Contributors

Jeffrey J Du Bois, MD Chief of Children's Surgical Services, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Kaiser Permanente, Women and Children's Center, Roseville Medical Center

Jeffrey J Du Bois, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, California Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Melissa Miller, MD Department of Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Melissa Miller, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association and American Medical Student Association/Foundation

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Diagram illustrating the technique for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The gallbladder is retracted with grasping 5-mm laparoscopic instruments, and clips are applied over the cystic duct and artery.
Photograph of a gallbladder filled with numerous small cholesterol stones.
Operative photograph illustrating the position of small (5 mm, 10 mm) trocars in the abdomen of a 12-year-old child undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy. By using this technique, the surgeon can avoid large incisions and remove the gallbladder safely.
Photograph illustrating the role of endoscopic retrieval of common bile duct stones. The picture shows a balloon placed via the endoscope into the ampulla for extraction of a cholesterol stone that was occluding the common bile duct.
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