Acute Pancreatitis is sudden swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. It is accompanied by severe abdominal pain. Acute Pancreatitis usually resolves itself within a few days with treatment but can be life-threatening with severe complications. This condition usually develops from gallstones or moderate to heavy alcohol consumption over a period of years.
Causes of Acute Pancreatitis
Most cases of acute pancreatitis are caused by gallstones and alcohol however in some cases the cause is unknown. Other causes of acute pancreatitis include:
The main symptom for acute pancreatitis is abdominal pain felt in the upper left side or middle of the abdomen. This pain:
- Typically last for days and is relieved by leaning forward
- Radiates to the back or below the left shoulder-blade
- Worsen when lying flat on the back
- Appears suddenly and becomes constant and more severe
- Feels worse after eating
Other symptoms include:
Test and diagnosis of acute pancreatitis
To diagnose this disease, the doctor will ask for your medical history. He will also do a physical examination
that may reveal:
He may also order blood tests which include a complete blood count
and a comprehensive metabolic panel
(it provides the overall picture of your body's chemical balance and metabolism). Imaging tests may also be done. These include:
- Abdominal ultrasound to check for inflammation
- CAT scan to check for gallstones and extent of damage to the pancreas
- MRI to show the pancreas, gallbladder, and pancreatic and bile ducts.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) to create visual images of the pancreas and bile duct.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to remove stones from the bile duct if your condition is caused by gallstones. It can also be used to treat some causes of pancreatitis.
Treatment usually requires hospitalization for intravenous fluids, antibiotics and pain medications. A tube may be inserted through the nose or mouth to remove stomach contents if you vomiting or have severe pain that does not improve. In severe cases, the patient may require nasogastric feeding in which a special feed is given through a thin long tube inserted through the nose and throat and into the stomach. This may be done for several weeks until the pancreas heals. If no complications occur, most cases of pancreatitis resolves itself within a few days.
In some cases fluid around the pancreas may be collected, gallstones may be removed or blockages of the pancreatic duct may be relieved. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to remove dead or infected pancreatic tissues. Before leaving the hospital, patient may be advised not to smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, or eat fatty meals.