What Is Pancreatitis?
How Is Pancreatitis Treated? continued...
People with acute pancreatitis are primarily treated with intravenous fluids and pain medications in the hospital. In up to 25% of patients, the pancreatitis can be severe and patients may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). In the ICU, the patient is closely monitored, because pancreatitis can cause damage to the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Some cases of severe pancreatitis can result in death of pancreatic tissue (pancreatic necrosis). In these cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged tissue if a secondary infection develops.
An acute attack of pancreatitis usually lasts only a few days, unless it is complicated by necrosis or fluid collections in or around the gland. An acute attack of pancreatitis caused by gallstones may require removal of the gallbladder or endoscopic surgery of the bile duct. After the gallstones are removed and the inflammation subsides, the pancreas usually returns to normal.
Pancreatic or gallbladder surgery can sometimes be performed as laparoscopic, or "minimally invasive," procedures. During laparoscopic surgery, small (usually 5- to 10-millimeter) incisions are made in the abdomen. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through these incisions. The surgeon is guided by the laparoscope, which transmits a picture of the internal organs on a monitor. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include smaller incisions, less risk of infection, less pain and scarring, and a more rapid recovery.
Treatment for chronic pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis can be somewhat difficult to treat. Doctors will try to relieve the patient's pain and improve the nutritional and metabolic problems that result from loss of pancreatic function. Patients are generally given pancreatic enzymes or insulin, if these substances are not being secreted or released by the pancreas. Pancreatic enzyme pills are usually prescribed to be taken with meals to aid in nutrient absorption. A low-fat diet may also be helpful.
Surgery may help relieve abdominal pain, restore drainage of pancreatic secretions, treat chronic pancreatitis caused by blockage of the pancreatic duct, or reduce the frequency of attacks.
Patients must stop drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking, follow their doctor and dietitian's dietary recommendations, and take the proper medications in order to have fewer and milder attacks of pancreatitis.
Can Pancreatitis Be Prevented?
Because most cases of pancreatitis are caused by alcohol abuse, prevention is directed at responsible drinking, or no drinking at all. If heavy drinking is a concern, talk to your doctor or health care provider about a referral to an alcohol treatment center. In addition, you may benefit from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.