Recurrent acute pancreatitis

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Opinion statement

  • Patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis should be treated with the same supportive and symptom-oriented measures as those with acute pancreatitis. The need for specific treatment depends on the cause of the pancreatitis. Patients should discontinue alcohol use, putative causative medications, and exposure to toxins or helminths in endemic areas. Metabolic abnormalities need to be corrected, and appropriate treatment should be initiated for associated infections, autoimmune diseases, vasculitis, and hypercoagulable states.

  • For patients with gallstone pancreatitis, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is indicated if biliary obstruction persists or if cholangitis is present. Elective cholecystectomy may be performed in appropriate patients; otherwise, consider biliary sphincterotomy and ursodeoxycholic acid for prevention of recurrent attacks.

  • Transpapillary stenting or sphincterotomy of the minor papilla benefits some patients with pancreas divisum and no other explanation for recurrent pancreatitis. Surgical sphincteroplasty is reserved for those failing endoscopic treatment.

  • Biliary sphincterotomy benefits more than 50% of patients with sphincter of Oddi dysfunction and recurrent acute pancreatitis. Some authors advocate pancreatic sphincter manometry and sphincterotomy for persistent pancreatic segment hypertension in patients who have recurrent pancreatitis after biliary sphincterotomy.

  • In patients with pancreatic duct strictures, transpapillary stent placement serves as a short-term measure; most patients ultimately require surgery.