Intensive care management of acute pancreatitis: recognition of patients at high risk of developing severe or fatal complications

P Kaufmann, G Hofmann, K H Smolle, A Lueger, T Pieber, G Brunner, G J Krejs
Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift 1996, 108 (1): 9-15
The clinical spectrum of acute pancreatitis ranges from mild, self-limiting disease of fulminant illness that may rapidly lead to multiple organ failure and death. To identify factors associated with a subsequent severe course and/or high mortality we investigated retrospectively 91 patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit (ICU) with acute pancreatitis during a 2 year period. 67% of the attacks were mild (< or = 1 complication). The overall mortality rate was 9%, whereby 3% of patients with alcoholic and 13% with biliary pancreatitis died. 75% of the patients in the group with a fatal outcome were aged over sixty and 30% in the group with a mild course (p < 0.05). Females with pancreatitis of biliary origin had a mild course in 57% and a severe (> or = 2 complications) or fatal outcome in 43%. In males with alcohol abuse we observed a mild form of pancreatitis in 79% and a severe or fatal course in 21%. The delay between onset of abdominal pain and commencement of treatment in hospital was greater than 12 hours in 70% of all patients studied and there was no association with severity and development of subsequent complications. The median of the acute physiology and chronic health evaluation scoring system (APACHE-III) on the day of admission was 19 in patients with mild disease, which was significantly lower than in patients with severe (40) or fatal acute pancreatitis (53) (p < 0.0001). Serial APACHE-III measurements over 5 days after admission provided further differentiation between mild and severe or fatal cases (p < 0.0001), but no significant difference was observed between survivors with severe course and fatal outcome. In addition, RANSON scores were calculated for comparison with APACHE-III at admission and after 48 hours: concerning the recognition between mild and severe/fatal pancreatitis both scoring systems exhibited similar significant differences on day 1 and day 2. The RANSON scoring system provided further a significant differentiation between survivors with a severe course of pancreatitis when compared to deaths on day 2, whereas the APACHE-III scoring system did not. Advanced age, female sex, biliary obstruction and elevated RANSON and APACHE-III scores are risk factors for an increased rate of life-threatening complications in acute pancreatitis. The daily assessment of such scoring systems may allow the recognition of such patients and may be helpful in the routine clinical management and monitoring of acute pancreatitis.

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