What is Acute Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas.

  • Acute pancreatitis - When the inflammation develops quickly, over a few days or so. It often goes away completely and leaves no permanent damage. Sometimes it is serious.


What are the causes of acute pancreatitis?

Gallstones - A gallstone can pass through and get stuck at the lower end of the bile duct , thus irritating the pancreas and causing an acute attack of pancreatitis.
Alcohol – Heavy intake over a longer duration or binge drinking can cause a severe attack .

Uncommon Causes –

  • Viral infections like mumps
  • High Triglyceride levels
  • High calcium levels
  • Autoimmune - this is where your own immune system attacks the pancreas
  • Unknown - no cause is found in about 2-5 % of cases.

However, a number of these cases are probably due to tiny gallstones or 'gallstone sludge' that passes through the bile duct .

What happens in acute pancreatitis?

In the majority of the cases, the inflammation is mild and settles within a week. Around 20% the attack is severe and causes damage to other organs. This can lead to shock, respiratory failure, kidney failure and other complications. Acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening.

What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Backache
  • Fever
  • Feeling unwell

How is acute pancreatitis investigated?

A combination of tests will help to detect the cause and assess the severity of the attack.
  • Blood tests ( including amylase and lipase levels)n
  • USG of the abdomen
  • CT scan of the abdomen
  • Depending on the reports- a score can be calculated

What is the treatment for acute pancreatitis?

  • Patient will need hospitalization. Sometimes the patient will need ICU stay.
  • Mainline of treatment includes painkillers, antibiotics and intravenous fluids . Surgery is sometimes needed to remove infected or damaged tissue.
  • Removal of the gall bladder is advised if a gallstone was the cause.
  • If it is secondary to alcohol, the patient will need to completely abstain from alcohol.
  • High triglyceride levels may need medications Rarely, an attack of acute pancreatitis may be a one-off event.

         July 21st, 2017


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