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Pediatric Cholecystitis Medication

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

Medication Summary

Surgical intervention is the definitive treatment for cholecystitis, especially in the pediatric population. However, bile acids have been used with some success for the dissolution of cholesterol gallstones.


Gallstone Solubilizing Agents

Class Summary

Gallstone solubilizing agents are used for the medical dissolution of cholesterol gallstones. Ursodiol and chenodiol are orphan drugs that have been approved by the FDA for gallstone dissolution; however, these agents have not been FDA approved yet for children.

Ursodiol (Actigall, Urso)


Ursodiol suppresses hepatic synthesis and secretion and intestinal absorption of cholesterol. It does not seem to significantly inhibit synthesis and secretion of endogenous bile acids or affect secretion of phospholipids into bile.

Overall, ursodiol increases the concentration at which cholesterol saturation occurs and allows cholesterol to solubilize in an aqueous medium. It is preferred over chenodiol because of its relative safety.

Chenodiol (Chenix)


Chenodiol acts in a similar fashion to ursodiol; however, its metabolite lithocholic acid is hepatotoxic and may cause hepatobiliary damage itself. Chenodiol given at low doses (< 10 mg/kg/d) may actually increase the rate of cholecystectomy. Because of these effects, ursodiol is preferred.



Class Summary

Antibiotics with biliary excretion covering enteric pathogens may be administered to control infection. The combination of ampicillin, gentamicin, and clindamycin is a common and well-accepted regimen.

The use of antibiotics remains controversial. Some authors assert that antibiotics are not necessary in simple cases and should be reserved for persistent fever or worsening of the condition.



Ampicillin is a broad-spectrum penicillin. It interferes with bacterial cell wall synthesis during active replication, causing bactericidal activity against susceptible organisms.



Gentamicin is an aminoglycoside antibiotic for gram-negative bacteria, including Pseudomonas species. It is synergistic with beta-lactamase against enterococci. It interferes with bacterial protein synthesis by binding to 30S and 50S ribosomal subunits.

Clindamycin (Cleocin)


Clindamycin is a semisynthetic antibiotic produced by 7(S)-chloro-substitution of 7(R)-hydroxyl group of parent compound lincomycin. It inhibits bacterial growth, possibly by blocking dissociation of peptidyl tRNA from ribosomes, causing RNA-dependent protein synthesis to arrest. It distributes widely in the body, without penetration of the CNS. It is protein bound and excreted by the liver and kidneys. It is effective against gram-positive aerobic and anaerobic bacteria (except enterococci).

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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