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Management of acute pancreatitis in the critically ill 

Management of acute pancreatitis in the critically ill
Management of acute pancreatitis in the critically ill

Rajkumar Rajendram

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date: 05 July 2022

The major causes of morbidity and mortality in acute pancreatitis are organ dysfunction and infection of necrotic tissue. Management should aim to prevent, or to diagnose and treat, the complications of pancreatic inflammation, and any predisposing factors to avoid recurrence. Medical management is essentially supportive with oxygen, intravenous fluids, analgesia, enteral or parenteral nutrition, and correction of metabolic abnormalities. Patients with severe acute pancreatitis are unlikely to resume prompt oral intake so nutritional support is also required. Post-pyloric feeding is not required if nasogastric feeding is tolerated. However, enteral nutrition, whether oral, gastric, or post-pyloric, can cause pain, recurrence of pancreatitis or an increase in fluid collections, so parenteral nutrition may be necessary. The necrotic pancreas becomes infected in a third of patients with severe acute pancreatitis. Treatment of infection includes systemic antimicrobials, enteral nutrition, percutaneous aspiration, and necrosectomy. However, compared with open necrosectomy, a minimally invasive step-up approach consisting of percutaneous drainage followed, if necessary, by open necrosectomy, reduces morbidity and mortality. The aetiology of the pancreatitis must also be treated to prevent recurrence and the complications of pancreatic failure. Gallstones are the most common cause of pancreatitis that requires specific treatment. Endoscopic or surgical removal of stones may reduce the severity of pancreatitis. Patients should also have cholecystectomy after recovery from gallstone pancreatitis. Effective management of acute pancreatitis requires multidisciplinary engagement. The mainstay of management involves supportive prevention and treatment of complications, infection, and organ failure to avoid or delay surgery.

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