Pancreatitis remains the third most common gastroenterological cause of hospital admission, and staying on top of the latest quality indicators is important for the care and safety of patients, said Jamie S. Barkin, MD, professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology at the University of Miami, in a virtual presentation at the annual Digestive Diseases: New Advances conference jointly provided by Rutgers and Global Academy for Medical Education.

The basics of treatment have changed, said Dr. Barkin. “A large volume of ringers lactate intravenous fluids given within the first 24 hours of admission, as opposed to normal saline, may decrease the inflammatory response in patients with acute pancreatitis.” The preferred diagnostic method remains clinical evaluation along with use of serum lipase, which is more sensitive than serum amylase (97%) but with similar specificity (99%), and current wisdom does not support the need for an early CT for diagnosis unless there is a diagnostic dilemma.

Early establishment of disease etiology and its therapy is imperative to attempt to prevent recurrent episodes and progression to chronic pancreatitis, Dr. Barkin said. Genetic testing studies suggest that approximately 10% of acute pancreatitis cases are the result of genetic factors, and Dr. Barkin recommended performing genetic testing after a first attack of idiopathic acute pancreatitis, especially in younger patients.

There is an extensive list of medications that may cause acute pancreatitis, according to a recent study published in PLOS One, the most common of which include acetaminophen, amiodarone, azathioprine, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, Dr. Barkin said. In addition, acute pancreatitis can be caused by isonicotinic acid hydrazide (INH), cannabis, L-asparaginase, metronidazole, mesalamine, simvastatin, sulindac, sitagliptin, thiazides, tigecycline, trans-retinoic acid, and valproic acid, among others.

Current recommendations for hospital treatment of acute pancreatitis include early large volume fluid replacement and initiation of per-oral nutrition as soon as able to be tolerated, as well as pain control, Dr. Barkin said. In addition, management includes strict glycemic and triglyceride control and performance of cholecystectomy for mild and or moderate biliary pancreatitis or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) if the patient is not an operative candidate during the same hospital stay.

Current recommendations for the prevention of acute pancreatitis include avoidance of irritants such as alcohol, nicotine, and drugs known to cause acute pancreatitis, including marijuana, said Dr. Barkin. In addition, controlling metabolic factors such as obesity, diabetes, and triglycerides can help reduce risk of recurrent episodes in susceptible patients. Several of these factors are also linked to increased risk for progression of acute pancreatitis to chronic pancreatitis.

For patients with biliary pancreatitis, Dr. Barkin noted that cholecystectomy should be performed prior to discharge during the index hospitalization. “In patients who cannot undergo surgery, endoscopic sphincterotomy should be performed to allow spontaneous passage of any stones still in the gallbladder,” he noted.

In addition, patients who have experienced an attack of acute pancreatitis should be screened long-term for development of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, which may be present in approximately one-quarter of patients following an acute pancreatitis episode, and diabetes, Dr. Barkin said. He cited a population-based study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2019 in which individuals with postpancreatitis diabetes had significantly higher rates of all-cause mortality, as well as hospitalization for conditions including chronic pulmonary disease, severe renal disease, and infectious disease.

Finally, at the time of discharge, it is essential to evaluate acute pancreatitis patients for risk of readmission, Dr. Barkin said. In addition to severe disease and systemic inflammatory response syndrome at the time of patient discharge, several factors increase the likelihood of readmission including ongoing abdominal pain requiring use of pain medicine, obesity, and inability to tolerate solid food, he noted.

Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.

Dr. Barkin had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.