Acute Pancreatitis


What is Acute Pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes quickly and severely inflamed. The digestive enzymes of the pancreas then leak into the tissues of the organ itself, rather than staying within the tubes (ducts) that normally transfer these enzymes to the safety of the small intestine. This results in severe damage to the pancreas. 

What Causes Acute Pancreatitis?

There are a number of causes of acute pancreatitis, including the following:

  • Heavy alcohol ingestion
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Trauma to the upper abdomen
  • Medication, such as diuretics
  • Genetics 

What are Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis?

The main symptoms of acute pancreatitis are sudden, severe pain in the upper abdomen, frequently accompanied by vomiting and fever. The abdomen is tender and the patient feels and looks ill.

How is Acute Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

The first step towards diagnosis of acute pancreatitis is a clinical history and physical exam. A suspected diagnosis of acute pancreatitis will be confirmed after blood tests measuring pancreatic enzymes are drawn and show abnormally elevated levels. An abdominal ultrasound or CT can also indicate pancreatitis by showing the enlargement of the pancreas. 

How is Acute Pancreatitis Treated?

The condition is treated by resting the pancreas while the tissues heal. This is accomplished thorough bowel rest, hospitalization, intravenous feeding, and pain medications. When pancreatitis is caused by gallstones, it is necessary to remove the gallbladder. This is usually done after the acute pancreatitis has resolved.

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