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Acute pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas inflames suddenly which can be mild or life threatening. This is an illness that usually requires the patient to be hospitalized. Some causes of this condition include gallstones, alcohol abuse, and even a virus. This condition could be hereditary and having cystic fibrosis may also contribute to this disease. A main symptoms of acute pancreatitis is severe abdominal pain. If gallstones cause acute pancreatitis the pain comes on suddenly while alcohol results in a more gradual onset of pain. Other common symptoms include pain that increases with coughing, vigorous movement, and breathing deeply. The degree to which someone has symptoms also varies. Some patients may only have moderate to severe pain while others may have changes to their breathing, sweating, become tachycardic, and could have pleural effusion (Bansal, 2019).
Diagnostic testing for Acute Pancreatitis
In order to diagnosis acute pancreatitis, blood tests and imaging may be used. There is not a conclusive blood test for this illness but testing can indicate a likelihood of having this condition. Some findings that indicate this illness is an increase in pancreatic enzymes amylase and lipase. The patient may also have an increase in white blood cells and blood urea nitrogen. Some imaging used to diagnosis acute pancreatitis include ultrasounds, Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. Most of these imaging tests show inflammation or changes to the pancreas (Bansal, 2019).
Some treatment for acute pancreatitis include IV fluids, pain medication, nutritional education, and in some cases endoscopy or surgery. Most of the treatment will occur in a hospital setting. (Bansal, 2019). The IV fluids are to help prevent dehydration, pain medication is necessary for those with abdominal pain. Unfortunately, not all patients are fortunate enough to get pain relief through pain medication with this illness. If a patient is hospitalized it is not uncommon for that patient to fast. This is necessary to help the pancreas recover and help get inflammation under control. In severe cases, a feeding tube could be warranted. Other ways to help with treatment could include enzymes to help improve digestion and moving toward low-fat meals that are also high in nutrients (Mayo Clinic, 2018). As a provider, if I had a patient come in that I suspected could have acute pancreatitis I would refer this patient to the ER to be properly evaluated. I would not want to waste time on this patient in the event there condition was already severe or worsened.
Bansal, R. (2019). Acute Pancreatitis. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/digestive-disorders/pancreatitis/acute-pancreatitis
(Links to an external site.)
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Mayo Clinic. (2018). Pancreatitis. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360233