JOURNAL ARTICLE

Incidence of pancreatitis, secondary causes, and treatment of patients referred to a specialty lipid clinic with severe hypertriglyceridemia: a retrospective cohort study

Supna Sandhu, Ahmad Al-Sarraf, Catalin Taraboanta, Jiri Frohlich, Gordon A Francis
Lipids in Health and Disease 2011, 10: 157
21906399

BACKGROUND: Severe hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) is one cause of acute pancreatitis, yet the level of plasma triglycerides likely to be responsible for inducing pancreatitis has not been clearly defined.

METHODS AND RESULTS: A retrospective cohort study was conducted on patients presenting non-acutely to the Healthy Heart Program Lipid Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital with a TG level > 20 mM (1772 mg/dl) between 1986 and 2007. Ninety-five patients with TG > 20 mM at the time of referral were identified, in who follow up data was available for 84. Fifteen patients (15.8%), with a mean outpatient TG level of 38.1 mM, had a history of acute pancreatitis. Among 91 additional patients with less severe HTG, none had a history of pancreatitis when TG were between 10 and 20 mM. Among patients with TG > 20 mM on presentation, 8 (8.5%), with a mean TG level of 67.8 mM, exhibited eruptive xanthomata. A diet high in carbohydrates and fats (79%) and obesity (47.6%) were the two most frequent secondary causes of HTG at initial visit. By 2009, among patients with follow up data 53% exhibited either pre-diabetes or overt Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Upon referral only 23 patients (24%) were receiving a fibrate as either monotherapy or part of combination lipid-lowering therapy. Following initial assessment by a lipid specialist this rose to 84%, and remained at 67% at the last follow up visit.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest hypertriglyceridemia is unlikely to be the primary cause of acute pancreatitis unless TG levels are > 20 mM, that dysglycemia, a diet high in carbohydrates and fats, and obesity are the main secondary causes of HTG, and that fibrates are frequently overlooked as the drug of first choice for severe HTG.

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