What is Acute Pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas which can also affect other organs such as the lungs and kidneys to varying degrees. Pancreatitis can be classified as mild, moderate or severe based on the initial clinical condition of the patient and any effect on other organs, as well as how quickly a patient recovers from an acute attack.


Acute pancreatitis is diagnosed with a typical history of a severe, sharp stabbing pain, often associated with back pain, nausea and vomiting together with a raised blood test of amylase or lipase. Pancreatitis can also be diagnosed with a CT scan if the patient has been having pain for several days.


Most patients with acute pancreatitis need hospital admission for pain management (usually morphine) and intravenous fluids to treat dehydration. Most patients have mild pancreatitis, which will settle down over a few days and the cause of the pancreatitis is treated. Some patients with moderate or severe pancreatitis will require admission to a high dependency unit and often need a CT scan to look for complications of pancreatitis.
It is important to investigate the cause of the pancreatitis, so patients usually have an ultrasound scan to look for gallstones (which is the commonest cause). The next commonest cause is alcohol consumption, followed by other rarer causes of pancreatitis. Your surgeon will discuss the likely cause and treatment needed.

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