Treating Acute Pancreatitis

By: GI Alliance


A sudden, painful inflammation of the pancreas, acute pancreatitis is difficult to self-diagnose but in desperate need of treatment. The pain can last several days and may have a variety of causes. Early detection can save your body from pain and further trauma, which is why we’ve compiled a few tips for diagnosing and treating acute pancreatitis in Baton Rouge. Let’s get started.

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis

The most common causes of acute pancreatitis are alcohol and gallstones. There is no threshold above which you can get acute pancreatitis. Some people do not need much alcohol at all to cause pancreatitis. So if you have experienced acute pancreatitis before, it may be best to steer clear of alcohol entirely. Other causes of acute pancreatitis include:
  • Certain medications
  • Trauma
  • Some rare causes such as high triglycerides, etc.

Warning Signs of Acute Pancreatitis

The first things to be aware of as a potential sufferer are the signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis, such as:
  • Pain radiating from the upper abdomen
  • Swollen, tender abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
Please note that abdominal pain may be a symptom for a variety of mild or serious conditions, ranging from a viral gastroenteritis to cancer. So refrain from googling it or diagnosing yourself, as this will result in unnecessary anxiety. Stay calm and explain your symptoms to a physician who can diagnose the problem correctly. In some cases, the seriousness of the problem may be suggested by the severity or duration of pain-for example, mild transient pain is less likely to come from a serious underlying problem.

Acute Pancreatitis Diagnosis Methods Available

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. A gastroenterologist can normally confirm the diagnosis by consulting your medical history, performing a physical examination, testing your blood for elevated levels of amylase or lipase. After confirming the diagnosis, your digestive specialist may perform imaging tests to help identify the cause. Such tests include:
  • Transabdominal Ultrasound (TUS)
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS)
  • Endoscopic Retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Computerized Tomography (CT)
Everyone doesn’t need all these tests. Let your doctor determine if you need any special workup beyond the routine tests. Just because it took you a while to make the appointment and see the doctor, although you may be having severe symptoms, please consider the time it takes to be seen, have the tests performed and results to be obtained, before a diagnosis can be made, or treatment started. So it may be disappointing, if you walk in with the expectation that you would be leaving feeling better right away. The ER may help if you have severe symptoms, to temporarily control them by giving pain or nausea medications, but this is not for lasting relief. They are really there to diagnose and treat true emergencies, and nothing less than an emergency. If you had repeated attacks of pancreatitis, you may need special tests to find the cause. Our physicians are trained in special procedures such as endoscopic ultrasound to diagnose various cases of pancreatitis.

Treating Acute Pancreatitis

After confirming the diagnosis and finding the cause of your acute pancreatitis episode, your gastroenterologist will be able to devise a personalized treatment plan for your symptoms. General treatment methods for acute pancreatitis include:
  • Adequate fluid replenishment
  • Nutritional support
  • Pain control via prescription medication
  • Treatment of the underlying issue (gallstones, medication, high levels of triglycerides or calcium, etc.)
In cases of severe acute pancreatitis, surgery may be necessary. Unless it is mild, hospitalization may be needed. If you have experienced severe pain, it is not uncommon to go directly to the emergency room and be diagnosed with acute pancreatitis there. Remember that ER is only useful for true emergencies; otherwise, you may waste your time waiting for hours for basic or emergent tests. In fact, if you experience chronic or recurring symptoms, you may still need to see a doctor after your ER visit. If you are searching for a doctor, keep experience in mind. Outcome studies have shown that experience has a lot to do with successful outcomes. Hospitals and physicians that routinely treat a high volume of pancreatitis cases have better outcomes--such as less complications, lower mortality, etc.

The Take-Away

If you believe you are experiencing acute pancreatitis, contact your gastroenterologist and seek immediate medical attention. The digestive health experts with GI Alliance have extensive training and experience in treating pancreatic disorders. If you struggle with recurring bouts of pancreatitis, call and schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists.