Background: Death from acute pancreatitis within the first week after admission is usually a consequence of multiple organ dysfunction. Reports from specialist centres suggest that, with improvements in resuscitation and supportive care, such deaths are becoming uncommon but it is unclear if this is reflected in a decrease in early mortality rate from acute pancreatitis in the general population.
Methods: Data concerning patients discharged with a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis (International Classification of Disease-9 code 577.0) between 1984 and 1995 were obtained from the Information and Statistics Division, National Health Service in Scotland, and analysed on a computer database.
Results: The incidence of acute pancreatitis in Scotland continues to increase in both sexes. The in-hospital mortality rate (death from all causes) was 7.5 per cent and showed a slight but significant downward trend over the period of study. Death within 7 days of hospital admission accounted for 53.7 per cent of all deaths and the proportion of early deaths did not decline over the study interval.
Conclusion: These results suggest that scope remains for considerable improvement in the early management of acute pancreatitis. There is an urgent need to improve the early recognition of severe pancreatitis coupled to a willingness on behalf of clinicians to transfer these patients at an early stage to a centre with high-dependency and intensive care facilities supervised by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in the endoscopic, radiological and surgical management of these patients.