Acute Pancreatitis: Updates for Emergency Clinicians

Anna Waller, Brit Long, Alex Koyfman, Michael Gottlieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Acute pancreatitis is a frequent reason for patient presentation to the emergency department (ED) and the most common gastrointestinal disease resulting in admission. Emergency clinicians are often responsible for the diagnosis and initial management of acute pancreatitis. Objective: This review article provides emergency clinicians with a focused overview of the diagnosis and management of pancreatitis. Discussion: Pancreatitis is an inflammatory process within the pancreas. While the disease is often mild, severe forms can have a mortality rate of up to 30%. The diagnosis of pancreatitis requires two of the following three criteria: epigastric abdominal pain, an elevated lipase, and imaging findings of pancreatic inflammation. The most common etiologies include gallbladder disease and alcohol use. After the diagnosis has been made, it is important to identify underlying etiologies requiring specific intervention, as well as obtain a right upper quadrant ultrasound. The initial management of choice is fluid resuscitation and pain control. Recent data have suggested that more cautious fluid resuscitation in the first 24 h might be more appropriate for some patients. Intravenous opiates are generally safe if used judiciously. Appropriate disposition is a multifactorial decision, which can be facilitated by using Ranson criteria or the Bedside Index of Severity in Acute Pancreatitis score. Complications, though rare, can be severe. Conclusions: Pancreatitis is a potentially deadly disease that commonly presents to most emergency departments. It is important for clinicians to be aware of the current evidence regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and disposition of these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • alcohol
  • fluids
  • gallstones
  • imaging
  • lipase
  • necrosis
  • pancreatitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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