Acute Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis inflames the pancreas, causing digestive enzymes to attack the tissue that produces them. Acute pancreatitis occurs soon after the pancreas becomes damaged by its own enzymes.


Most of the time, the enzymes produced by the pancreas are only active after they reach the small intestine, where they are needed to digest food. But when these enzymes somehow become active inside the pancreas, they eat (and digest) the tissue of the pancreas, causing swelling, bleeding (hemorrhage), and damage to the pancreas and its blood vessels.

Risk Factors

Acute pancreatitis affects men more often than women, with the following factors linked to the condition:
  • Certain diseases and surgeries
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Genetics


  • Pain that worsens immediately after eating or drinking, especially high-fat foods
  • Pain that often spreads to the back or below the left shoulder blade, worsening when lying flat on back
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting or sweating
  • Digestive issues

Diagnostic Tests

  • Blood tests
  • Test to show the release of pancreatic enzymes
  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Abdominal MRI
  • Abdominal ultrasound


It is recommended that all patients avoid the following:
  • Fatty foods
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
A hospital stay may be necessary, accompanied by the following:
  • Pain medicines
  • Fluids given through a vein (IV)
  • Stopping food or fluid by mouth to limit the activity of the pancreas, and then slowly starting an oral diet
  • Inserting a tube through the nose or mouth to remove the contents of the stomach (nasogastric suctioning) may sometimes be done. The tube may stay in for 1 – 2 days, or sometimes for 1 – 2 weeks.
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