Hemorrhagic Cholecystitis: A Case of Expedited Diagnosis by Point-of-Care Ultrasound in the Emergency Department

J Emerg Med. 2019 Jul;57(1):74-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2019.03.010. Epub 2019 Apr 15.


Background: Hemorrhagic cholecystitis is a rare complication of acute cholecystitis and is a potentially fatal diagnosis. It may be difficult to detect because the symptoms are similar to more common diagnoses. Point-of-care ultrasound is a useful imaging technique in the emergency setting and is readily available to allow for immediate interpretation and application of the results to guide medical decision making.

Case report: We report a 76-year-old man with a history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, atrial fibrillation on warfarin, and coronary artery disease presenting with epigastric pain radiating to the back, nausea, and vomiting who was found to have hemorrhagic cholecystitis with gallbladder perforation. Ultrasound of the abdominal right upper quadrant showed a large, hyperechoic, nonshadowing, globular structure visualized within the lumen of the gallbladder extending from the neck through the body. The gallbladder wall was noted to be 0.72 cm with wall edema, focal pericholecystic fluid, and a positive sonographic Murphy sign suggestive of acute cholecystitis. The abnormal appearance of the gallbladder contents was suspected to be blood. Computed tomography angiography was performed and confirmed the diagnosis of acute hemorrhagic cholecystitis with perforation. Blood was noted to track from the cystic duct to the gallbladder lumen. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: To our knowledge, this is a unique case of hemorrhagic cholecystitis visualized on bedside ultrasound. This case shows that the use of point-of-care ultrasound by emergency medicine providers can facilitate the rapid recognition and treatment of specific, life-threatening hepatobiliary pathology while excluding alternate diagnoses.

Keywords: POCUS; acute cholecystitis; bedside ultrasound; biliary pathology; cholecystitis; emergency medicine; emergency ultrasound; hemorrhagic; point-of-care ultrasound; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Abdominal Pain / surgery
  • Aged
  • Cholecystitis / complications*
  • Cholecystitis / diagnosis*
  • Cholecystitis / surgery
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Ultrasonography / methods*