Patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) have many risks factors for gallbladder stasis or acute acalculous cholecystitis (ACC), including fasting, total parenteral nutrition, sedation, mechanical ventilation, infection and shock. We have performed a prospective study to estimate the prevalence of ultrasonographic gallbladder abnormalities in 30 consecutive medical ICU patients during the first 2 days of their stay in the ICU. Two patients had previously undergone cholecystectomy and were excluded from the study. Seventeen (61%) of the remaining 28 patients presented with gall-bladder abnormalities. Considering three major criteria of ACC, 14 patients (50%) presented with either sludge (25%), wall thickening (22%) or hydrops (11%). However, none of the patients needed a surgical procedure during the study because of gallbladder disease. We conclude that an important proportion of ICU patients presented with gallbladder abnormalities shown by ultrasonography and that this may have implications for establishing a diagnosis of ACC using ultrasonographic criteria.