Acute pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas at sudden onset, which may be mild or severe. Professor Alessandro Zerbi, Head of Pancreatic Surgery at Humanitas, spoke about acute pancreatitis in a video interview with Corriere della Sera.

“Acute pancreatitis is a disease that has great variability, so in some cases it can be very serious, even fatal, while in others it can represent an episode almost trivial from a medical point of view. This polymorphic and variegated aspect makes it a pathology that is a bit insidious and also feared by patients”, Professor Zerbi explained.

“The characteristic symptom is a very severe pain, which often patients report as the strongest pain they have ever experienced, localized at the highest quadrants of the abdomen and often radiating to the back. Pain can be associated with vomiting and sometimes with an impairment of the general condition, precisely because of its intensity.


The most common causes

“The most frequent cause, especially in our Mediterranean nation, is gallstones. The duct (called biliary duct) that carries the bile from the liver to the intestine crosses the head of the pancreas in its last tract. Sometimes small calculi may move from the gallbladder to the biliary tract and their transit through the final tract within the pancreas may temporarily obstruct the conduit leading the pancreatic juice to the intestine. This duct in fact joins – in its final part – with the biliary duct and the obstacle to the discharge of pancreatic juice causes an acute inflammation of the pancreas.

Acute pancreatitis is sometimes the first clinical manifestation of cholecystic calculi.

The second cause, although very different from the first in terms of appearance, is the abuse of alcohol, not intended as chronic consumption of alcohol but as a single particularly abundant drink,” emphasized the specialist.


A more conservative approach

“Acute pancreatitis is cured regardless of its cause and requires fasting of the patient, who will be administered with phlebous to return lost fluids to the body. If the condition is mild (and about 85% of cases are), two or three days of this treatment are sufficient to resolve the situation.

In very severe forms, however, treatment options can be different and more complex. The treatment may also require hospitalization, sometimes even in intensive care in the presence of damage to many other organs (such as kidney, lung, circulatory system).

Today, compared to a few years ago, we are more conservative, with a preference for a medical, endoscopic or radiological approach rather than a surgical one,” concluded Professor Zerbi.