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A to Z: Cholangitis

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May also be called: Acute Cholangitis; Acute Gallstone Cholangitis; Ascending Cholangitis

Cholangitis (koh-lan-JIE-tis) is an infection of the biliary tract, the network of ducts that transport bile from the liver to the gallbladder and intestines.

More to Know

One of the main functions of the liver is to produce bile, a digestive fluid that breaks down fats in the digestive tract. Bile from the liver is stored in the gallbladder and released into the small intestine when food is being digested. The vessels, or ducts, that transport bile are collectively known as the biliary tract. The major duct, which carries bile from the gallbladder and liver to the intestines, is called the common bile duct.


If the common bile duct becomes blocked, bile can back up and cause an infection in one or more of the bile ducts. This is called cholangitis. Gallstones, scarring of the duct, and tumors can cause blockages. This can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, and other symptoms. Without treatment, the infection can spread to the liver and may become life threatening.

Keep in Mind

Cholangitis is a serious medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Prompt treatment with antibiotic medications or surgery greatly increases the likelihood of a full recovery.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.