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Digestive Disorders Caused by Acute Pancreatitis

By Dr. Vikas Singla in Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Endoscopy

Jul 26 , 2021 | 2 min read

Pancreas is a gland, located behind the stomach in the upper abdomen and secretes digestive enzymes and hormones (including insulin-which regulates blood sugars).

Pancreatitis is inflammation (swelling) of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be acute – gets permanently damaged from inflammation over many year (which starts suddenly and, in some cases, can be fatal) or chronic (where pain lasts for several months to years).

Normally the digestive enzymes are secreted in inactive form by the pancreas and these enzymes pass through the pancreatic duct into the duodenum (small intestine), where the enzymes get activated. In acute pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes get activated within the pancreas and causes destruction of the pancreatic tissue (necrosis).

The most common causes of acute pancreatitis are:

  • Gallstones
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • High triglyceride levels
  • High calcium levels
  • Certain medications
  • Abdominal trauma
  • Viral infections
  • Structural anatomic anomalies
  • Genetic abnormalities typically, pancreatitis presents with sharp, sudden onset upper abdominal pain (which may radiate to the back).

Other Symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Constipation or diarrhea

 In most cases the inflammation is mild and subsides within few days to week. In some cases, the inflammation and necrosis may be severe which triggers an inflammatory response and damage other organs in the body (shock, hypertension, respiratory failure, kidney failure and sepsis).

The goal of treatment of acute pancreatitis is to alleviate pancreatic inflammation and to correct the underlying cause.

Treatment of acute pancreatitis includes:

  1. Intravenous fluids (directly into a vein) – to help prevent dehydration and to maintain blood pressure and urine output.
  2. Most patients don’t tolerate oral diet and may be fed liquid food through a tube in the tummy.
  3. About 30 percent of people with severe acute pancreatitis develop an infection in the damaged pancreatic tissue.

Acute pancreatitis is sometimes complicated by extensive damage infection to the pancreatic tissue. The damaged infected tissue may be drained into the stomach small intestine where a thin tube is inserted to drain out the infection.

Gallstone pancreatitis - treatment of pancreatitis is usually coupled with the treatment of gallstones. This may include a procedure to relieve the blockage caused by the gallstone(s) - Endoscopic Retrograde

Cholangiopancreatography, ERCP. In case of ERCP, you'll have a long, thin tube containing a camera (an endoscope) passed down through your mouth into your tummy. This is used to help remove the gallstones. Gallstone pancreatitis reoccurs in 30 to 50 percent of people after an initial attack of pancreatitis. Removal of the gall bladder (cholecystectomy) is often recommended during the same admission in mild cases to prevent a recurrence. One should consult a pancreas expert to get checked & understand the treatment options.

Advance Pancreas Care at Max Hospital, Saket