Diagnosis: What Historical Features and Laboratory Test(s) Are the Most Helpful to Make the Diagnosis? Is There Really a Normal Lipase with Active Pancreatitis? What “Red Flags” Suggest a Complicated Course?

  • Travis A. Thompson


Acute pancreatitis is defined as abdominal pain in the epigastric area with elevated pancreatic enzymes or signs of pancreatitis on advanced imaging. Two out of three characteristics are required to make the diagnosis. Both pancreatic enzymes amylase and lipase may be elevated, but lipase is more specific and can be used alone to make the diagnosis. Most cases of pancreatitis are mild and require only supportive care; however, signs of dehydration, infection, and persistent inflammation may indicate a more complicated course. It is difficult to determine in the emergency department which patients will have a more severe course.


Acute pancreatitis Lipase Amylase Computed tomography Risk factors Severe pancreatitis 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Travis A. Thompson
    • 1
  1. 1.MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Department of Emergency MedicineWashington, DCUSA

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