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Acute pancreatitis

  • Treatment

    Treatment often requires a stay in the hospital and may involve:

    • Pain medicines
    • Fluids given through a vein (IV)
    • Stopping food or fluid by mouth to limit the activity of the pancreas

    Occasionally a tube will be inserted through the nose or mouth to remove the contents of the stomach (nasogastric suctioning). This may be done if vomiting or severe pain do not improve, or if a paralyzed bowel (paralytic ileus) develops. The tube will stay in for 1 - 2 days to 1 - 2 weeks.

    Treating the condition that caused the problem can prevent repeated attacks.

    In some cases, therapy is needed to:

    • Drain fluid that has collected in or around the pancreas
    • Remove gallstones
    • Relieve blockages of the pancreatic duct

    In the most severe cases, surgery is needed to remove dead or infected pancreatic tissue.

    Avoid smoking, alcoholic drinks, and fatty foods after the attack has improved.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Most cases go away in a week. However, some cases develop into a life-threatening illness.

    The death rate is high with:

    • Hemorrhagic pancreatitis
    • Liver, heart, or kidney impairment
    • Necrotizing pancreatitis

    Pancreatitis can return. The likelihood of it returning depends on the cause, and how successfully it can be treated.

    • Acute kidney failure
    • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
    • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
    • Cysts or abscesses in the pancreas
    • Heart failure
    • Low blood pressure

    Repeat episodes of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have intense, constant abdominal pain
    • You develop other symptoms of acute pancreatitis