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Flashcards in Acute & Chronic Pancreatitis Deck (63)
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What is pancreatitis?


What are the 2 different types?

a condition involving inflammation of the pancreas 


pancreatitis can be acute or chronic


acute pancreatitis can return to normal after resolution of the episode


chronic pancreatitis involves continuing inflammation, often with irreversible structural changes 


What 2 factors account for the vast majority of cases of acute pancreatitis?

gallstones and alcohol


How does the severity of acute pancreatitis vary?


What is the mortality in the more severe form and why?

severity varies from mild self-limiting to extremely severe with extensive pancreatic and peripancreatic necrosis as well as haemorrhage


mortality is 40-50% in the more severe form as damage can result in the release of lytic enzymes into the blood


this contributes to severe shock and digestion of surrounding tissue 


What does the acronym GET SMASHED stand for?

GET SMASHED are the causes of acute pancreatitis


G - gallstones

E - ethanol (alcohol)

T - trauma


S - steroids

M - mumps

A - autoimmune (e.g. SLE)

S - scorpion bites 

H - hypercalcaemia, hypothermia, hyperlipidaemia


D - drugs - e.g. azathiaprin


What element is suggested to be raised in the final common pathway for pancreatitis?


What does this lead to?


What lifestyle factor can also influence this process?

the final common pathway has a marked rise in intracellular calcium


this leads to activation of intracellular proteases 


there is evidence that alcohol interferes with calcium homeostasis in pancreatic acinar cells 


What is the result of activation of intracellular proteases following an increase in intracellular calcium?



proteases digest the walls of blood vessels, leading to blood extravasation 


amylase is released into the blood 

(this is a non-specific diagnostic marker)


As well as amylase, what is released into the blood following blood extravasation?


What "sign" can this lead to?

released lipases are a better diagnostic marker than amylase


they cause fat necrosis within the abdomen and subcutaneous tissue


this can lead to discolouration of the skin - Grey Turner's sign


What is Grey Turner's sign?

this refers to discolouration of the skin / bruising of the flanks


it appears as a blue discolouration 


this is a sign of retroperitoneal haemorrhage or bleeding behind the peritoneum


How can levels of calcium and glucose be affected in pancreatitis and why does this happen?

  • fatty acids are released into the blood following extravasation and lipase release


these can bind to Ca2+ and lead to hypocalcaemia


  • concomitant destruction of adjacent islets can lead to hyperglycaemia


this can then cause Type II diabetes 


What can occur following necrosis and destruction of pancreatic tissue in pancreatitis?

  • formation of abscesses or cysts within the pancreas or adjacent tissues can occur 


  • infection secondary to pancreatic tissue damage does not always occur, but can


  • not all cases of infection lead to cyst / pseudocyst formation


Why can pulmonary failure occur in acute pancreatitis?


What does this eventually lead to?

pulmonary failure in acute pancreatitis is caused by circulating activated digestive enzymes 


(e.g. phospholipase A2, trypsin)


this leads to a loss of surfactant, atelectasis and irritation


this eventually leads to ARDS and pleural effusion


What else can occur in acute pancreatitis as a result of circulating activated digestive enzymes?

  • cardiac depression


  • breakdown of the blood brain barrier 


What is the main clinical feature of acute pancreatitis?


How does this change as inflammation spreads?

upper abdominal pain that usually starts in the epigastrium and is accompanied by nausea and vomiting 


as inflammation spreads in the peritoneal cavity, the pain becomes more intense


involvement of the retroperitoneum frequently leads to back pain 


What clinical features may be present in severe cases of acute pancreatitis?

  • tachycardia


  • hypotension


  • oliguria (reduced urine output)


What might be seen on abdominal examination in acute pancreatitis?

  • widespread tenderness with guarding 


  • reduced / absent bowel sounds 


  • periumbilical bruising (Cullen's sign) and flank bruising (Grey Turner's sign)


What is Cullen's sign?

haemorrhagic discolouration of the umbilical area due to intraperitoneal haemorrhage of any cause


What does it mean if Cullen's sign and Grey Turner's sign are present?



if these signs are present they show severe necrotising pancreatitis 


What sign, if present, is indicative of poor prognosis in acute pancreatitis?

left-sided pleural effusion


What will blood tests show in acute pancreatitis?

  • raised serum amylase 


  • raised serum lipase 


amylase is not prognostic and the level is not related to the degree of tissue damage


lipase levels are more specific and relate to the level of tissue damage, but levels do not rise until up to 8 hours after the onset of symptoms 


What does raised amylase suggest?

raised amylase, many times above the normal level, is an important indication of pancreatic inflammation


Why might a chest X-ray be performed when diagnosing acute pancreatitis?

  • CXR excludes gastroduodenal perforation, which also causes raised serum amylase


  • CXR may show gallstones or pancreatic calcification 


Why might an USS be performed in suspected acute pancreatitis?


What might this show?

USS is performed to look for gallstones which may cause pancreatitis


It may also show pancreatitic swelling and necrosis 


Why might a contrast-enhanced spiral CT be performed in acute pancreatitis?

  • to assess the extent of pancreatic necrosis


  • to detect complications such as abscesses, fluid collection and pseudocyst formation


What is the purpose of performing an MRI in acute pancreatitis?

MRI (MRCP) assesses the degree of pancreas damage


it can be used to locate gallstones 


it can also differentiate between fluid and solid inflammation


What is ERCP?

Why might it be used?

endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography


this is used to look at the pancreatic duct for inflammatory fibrosis or tumours 


pancreatic juice can be collected and biochemically examined 


What is APACHE and what does a score >8 suggest?

acute physiology and chronic health evalulation score


it assesses the severity of a wide spectrum of illness


it is adjusted for age + obesity and other health problems


it has a high sensitivity as early as 24 hours after symptom onset


a score >8 indicates severe disease 


What scoring system is used to assess the severity and prognosis of pancreatitis?


What acronym does this use?

the Glasgow scoring system can be used to assess the prognosis and severity of pancreatitis


it can be remebered with the acronym PANCREAS


What does PANCREAS stand for in the Glasgow scoring system?

P - PO2:

  • oxygen < 60 mmHg or 7.9 kPa


A - Age:

  • age > 55


N - Neutrophilia:

  • white blood cells > 15


C - Calcium:

  • calcium < 2 mmol/L


R - Renal urea:

  • urea > 16 mmol/L


E - Enzymes:

  • lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) > 600 iu/L
  • aspartate transaminase (AST) > 200 iu/L


A - Albumin:

  • albumin < 32 g/L


S - Sugar:

  • glucose > 10 mmol/L


What are the initial supportive treatments for acute pancreatitis?

  • replace lost fluids (IV) and a urinary catheter might be necessary


  • nasogastric suction to prevent abdominal distension and vomitus, lowering risk of aspiration pneumonia


  • continuous oxygen administration may be necessary depending on sats 


What types of medication might be prescribed for acute pancreatitis?

Prophylactic antibiotics:

  • these should broad spectrum - e.g. cefuroxime or aztreonam
  • reduces risk of infection complications



  • pethidine and tramadol administered under patient control system