Algorithm for the diagnosis and treatment of acute biliary pancreatitis

N Alexakis, J P Neoptolemos
Scandinavian Journal of Surgery: SJS 2005, 94 (2): 124-9
Gallstones are the commonest cause of acute pancreatitis in developed countries. There is now a considerable evidence base consolidated by a series of systematic reviews, meta-analyses and guidelines that has established a clear algorithm for diagnosis and management. In the majority of patients the combination of ultrasonography and serum alanine transaminase > or = 60 iu/l < or = 48 hours of symptoms will identify gallstones as the cause. The simplest method of severity assessment is a high level of serum C-reactive protein (> 150 mg/l up to 72 hours after symptoms). In mild disease, all fit patients must undergo laparoscopic cholecystectomy with intraoperative cholangiography or if not fit for surgery then endoscopic sphincterotomy during the same admission to prevent further attacks. All patients with severe disease should undergo endoscopic sphincterotomy in less than 72 hours. Patients with > 30% necrosis should undergo fine needle aspiration for bacteriology. Necrosectomy is indicated for infected necrosis or sterile necrosis if there are persisting clinically significant symptoms. There is increasing evidence for the use of minimally invasive pancreatic necrosectomy. Enteral nutrition should be instituted whenever possible but antibiotics should be reserved for patients with proven sepsis. The presence of fungal infection requires active anti-fungal therapy. Patients with severe disease should undergo cholecystectomy at a later stage. Patients who have undergone necrosectomy require long-term follow-up because of delayed complications.

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