Issues in hyperlipidemic pancreatitis

Dhiraj Yadav, C S Pitchumoni
Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 2003, 36 (1): 54-62
Hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) is a rare cause of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis secondary to HTG, presents typically as an episode of acute pancreatitis (AP) or recurrent AP, rarely as chronic pancreatitis. A serum triglyceride (TG) level of more than 1,000 to 2,000 mg/dL in patients with type I, IV, or V hyperlipidemia (Fredrickson's classification) is an identifiable risk factor. The typical clinical profile of hyperlipidemic pancreatitis (HLP) is a patient with a preexisting lipid abnormality along with the presence of a secondary factor (e.g., poorly controlled diabetes, alcohol use, or a medication) that can induce HTG. Less commonly, a patient with isolated hyperlipidemia (type V or I) without a precipitating factor presents with pancreatitis. Interestingly, serum pancreatic enzymes may be normal or only minimally elevated, even in the presence of severe pancreatitis diagnosed by imaging studies. The clinical course in HLP is not different from that of pancreatitis of other causes. Routine management of AP caused by hyperlipidemia should be similar to that of other causes. A thorough family history of lipid abnormalities should be obtained, and an attempt to identify secondary causes should be made. Reduction of TG levels to well below 1,000 mg/dL effectively prevents further episodes of pancreatitis. The mainstay of treatment includes dietary restriction of fat and lipid-lowering medications (mainly fibric acid derivatives). Experiences with plasmapheresis, lipid pheresis, and extracorporeal lipid elimination are limited.

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