Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

pp 1564-1565

Pancreatitis, Acute

  • Christoph K. WeberAffiliated withDepartment of Gastroenterology, Klinik Sonnenhof
  • , Richard LorenzAffiliated withDepartment of Internal Medicine, Ulm University

Definition and Characteristics

Acute pancreatitis (AP) is characterized by a rapid onset of inflammation of the pancreas. The disease is mainly associated with biliary duct obstruction or alcohol consumption. Rare causes of AP include drugs, hypercalcemia, hyperlipidemia, trauma, endoscopic interventions, autoimmune response, infections or genetic predisposition. In up to 25% the cause cannot be determined. In about 80% of the cases inflammation is limited to the pancreatic gland resulting in mild pancreatitis with little mortality. Severe pancreatitis usually includes necrosis of pancreatic tissue with a generalized inflammatory state involving failure of distant organ systems such as kidney, lungs and liver.


The prevalence in Europe and the USA of acute pancreatitis is constantly increasing and reaches about 24–75 cases per 100,000 adults [1].


Genetic alterations have been identified in the context of chronic or recurrent acute ...

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