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Acute Pancreatitis

Acute Pancreatitis: Introduction

Acute pancreatitis is a serious disease of the pancreas, an organ and gland in the upper abdominal area. It is characterized by a sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas and can be life-threatening and led to other serious complications.

The pancreas produces and secretes digestive enzymes that help to digest food. These enzymes flow from the pancreas through the pancreatic duct into the small intestine, where they become active and break down food. In pancreatitis, inflammation causes these digestive enzymes to become active while still in the pancreas where they begin to digest the pancreas itself.

Acute pancreatitis is often caused by alcohol abuse or gallstones. Less commonly it may also be caused by a reaction to medications, abdominal trauma, pancreatic cancer, duodenal ulcer, genetic deformities of the pancreas, and other conditions.

This process leads to the symptoms of acute pancreatitis that typically includes severe abdominal pain. People with acute pancreatitis are also at risk for developing chronic pancreatitis. Other complications of acute pancreatitis include diabetes, malabsorption, hemorrhage, and organ failure, which can be serious, even life threatening, and result in additional symptoms. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of acute pancreatitis.

Making a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms and history of alcohol use. A physical examination is also performed, which usually reveals severe tenderness of the upper abdomen.

Diagnostic testing includes blood tests to measure the amount of chemicals called lipase and amylase in the blood. Levels of amylase and lipase can be very high in acute pancreatitis.

Imaging tests may include an abdominal ultrasound and CT scan, which can reveal gallstones, one of the causes of pancreatitis. CT scan may also show damage or calcification of the pancreas, a sign of chronic pancreatitis. Other tests that help to visualize the pancreas and related structures, such as the bile ducts and the gallbladder, include endoscopic ultrasound and MRI.

It is possible that a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis can be missed because symptoms may be attributed to other conditions with similar symptoms. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of acute pancreatitis.

The treatment for acute pancreatitis involves a multifaceted approach. Treatment plans vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, the presence of complications, and an individual's medical history. Acute pancreatitis is treated in the hospital and includes the intravenous administration of antibiotics, fluids, and pain medications, and monitoring for the development of complications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of acute pancreatitis. ...more »

Acute Pancreatitis: The rapid-onset of inflammation of the pancreas which can have serious complications in severe cases. Severe cases require surgery - often more than one surgery may be needed. ...more »

Acute Pancreatitis: Symptoms

The types and severity of symptoms of acute pancreatitis vary between individuals depending on a variety of factors, such as age, general health, medical history, and the presence of complications. Acute pancreatitis is the result of an inflammation of the pancreas, which causes typical symptoms, such as severe constant abdominal pain, sometimes with back pain. The pain is generally worse ...more symptoms »

Acute Pancreatitis: Treatments

The goal of treatment of acute pancreatitis is to control symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and minimize the secretion of digestive enzymes to allow the pancreas to heal. Treatment also aims to prevent the development of serious complications, such as chronic pancreatitis, malabsorption, and malnutrition, kidney ...more treatments »

Acute Pancreatitis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of acute pancreatitis may be delayed or missed because some symptoms, such as abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea can attributed to many other conditions as such as gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or peptic ulcer. It is important to seek prompt medical care if you ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis

Treatments for Acute Pancreatitis

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Acute Pancreatitis?

Acute Pancreatitis: Deaths

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Diagnostic Tests for Acute Pancreatitis

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Acute Pancreatitis: Complications

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Causes of Acute Pancreatitis

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Disease Topics Related To Acute Pancreatitis

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Acute Pancreatitis: Undiagnosed Conditions

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In-Depth Reports: Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis

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Misdiagnosis and Acute Pancreatitis

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Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, and all can present in a variety of...read more »

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable bowel syndrome,...read more »

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Acute Pancreatitis: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Hospitals & Clinics: Acute Pancreatitis

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Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Acute Pancreatitis, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Acute Pancreatitis: Rare Types

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Evidence Based Medicine Research for Acute Pancreatitis

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Acute Pancreatitis: Animations

Research about Acute Pancreatitis

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Statistics for Acute Pancreatitis

Acute Pancreatitis: Broader Related Topics

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