Management of gallstone pancreatitis

Shawn D Larson, William H Nealon, B Mark Evers
Advances in Surgery 2006, 40: 265-84
Gallstones are the most common cause of acute pancreatitis in the western world. Most patients with ABP suffer a mild attack and are expected to make a full recovery. They can be managed supportively and undergo laparoscopic cholecystectomy with IOC during their initial hospitalization to prevent recurrence. If necessary, laparoscopic common bile duct exploration can be performed. Otherwise, postoperative ERCP can be performed to remove common bile duct stones. Patients with severe ABP require ICU admission, close clinical monitoring, and aggressive fluid resuscitation. There is a bimodal mortality in severe ABP with most late deaths caused by septic complications. Antibiotics should be used judiciously and are usually warranted only in the presence of infection or sepsis. ERCP, +/- ES, should be performed when signs of cholangitis are present. Early ERCP should be considered in patients with severe ABP who do not improve clinically. CT scanning should be performed to assess for necrosis or peripancreatic fluid collections. Patients with no fluid collections can undergo cholecystectomy once their clinical condition improves. Patients with peripancreatic fluid collections should be followed with serial CT scans. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy should be performed once resolution of the fluid collection is documented. If fluid collections do not resolve after 6 weeks, patients should undergo concurrent cholecystectomy and fluid drainage procedures. Sterile necrosis can be closely monitored and does not require necrosectomy unless the patient's clinical status deteriorates. Patients with infected necrosis should undergo necrosectomy when they are clinically stable. After recovery from an attack of severe ABP, patients require close follow-up because late complications are common. Currently, no single test can establish the diagnosis or predict the severity of ABP. A prompt diagnosis requires a high degree of suspicion and clinical acumen. Recognizing patients with severe pancreatitis is an important priority because it affects the type and timing of intervention. The management of these patients requires close clinical observation and a multidisciplinary approach between the surgeon, radiologist, gastroenterologist, and intensivist.


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