Acute pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas

A serious condition where your pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period of time and may settle on its own, or not

What is acute pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis is a condition that comes on suddenly when the digestive enzymes of your pancreas become trapped and begin to digest the organ itself. There is no cure but most people recover naturally within a week with the right support. A small number of cases develop into severe acute pancreatitis, which can lead to multiple organ failure.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis? icon plus

    Symptoms may include:

    • Acute pain in your stomach/abdomen
    • Vomiting or feeling sick
    • Upset stomach
  • How is acute pancreatitis diagnosed? icon plus

    An initial diagnosis of acute pancreatitis is reached through medical examination and a lifestyle review. Your consultant will examine your abdomen and check for areas of severe tenderness. You may need to undergo a blood test to detect high levels of the enzyme lipase and amylase, which are symptomatic of this condition.

    CT and MRI scans can be performed to determine the severity of your inflammation and assess the risk of complications from severe acute pancreatitis. You may also have an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) procedure, which involves direct examination of your pancreas using an endoscopic camera.
  • What treatment options are available for acute pancreatitis? icon plus

    The aim of treatment is to support your body whilst it recovers naturally whilst closely monitoring you for the early signs of complications such as organ failure.

    Treatment includes:

    • Intravenous fluids via a drip to keep you hydrated
    • Nutritional support as you will be unable to eat solid food
    • Oxygen via nasal tubes to support the organs in the first few days
    • Pain relief ranging from paracetamol to stronger medications

    Once you have recovered from the acute attack, you will need to address the underlying cause of your pancreatitis. This may include diet and lifestyle changes, which you will discuss with your consultant.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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