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Indications for surgical treatment of acute pancreatitis.

The clinical spectrum of acute pancreatitis ranges from mild, self-limiting symptoms to fulminant illness that may rapidly lead to multiple organ failure and death. Differentiation between acute interstitial pancreatitis, necrotizing pancreatitis, pancreatic abscess and acute pseudocyst is mandatory for the choice of surgical treatment. If morphological evaluation by dynamic pancreatography reveals pancreatic or peripancreatic necrosis, bacteriological evaluation by CT-guided fine-needle aspiration is the mainstay of further decision-making, and should be performed if general signs of inflammation are not improved by conservative therapy. Basically, operative treatment may be directed against underlying pathology (e.g. cholelithiasis), or may aim to manage complications. Infected necrosis is the only clear indication for surgery. Whether the choice should be debridement and gravity drainage, continuous closed lavage of the lesser sac, staged relaparotomies, or open packing, depends on the extent of the process and the individual situation. Peripancreatic fluid collections and pancreatic pseudocysts without major ductal pathology rarely need operative treatment in the early stages, whereas abscesses resulting from infected necrosis should be dealt with by surgery rather than by percutaneous drainage.

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