Several prior studies have suggested that 80% of deaths in acute pancreatitis occur late as a result of pan-creatic infection. Others have suggested that approx half of deaths occur early as a result of multisystem organ failure. The aim of the present study was to determine the timing of mortality of acute pancreatitis at a large tertiary-care hospital in the United States.
Methods: Patients with a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis (ICD-9 code 577.0) admitted to Brigham and Women's Hospital from October 1, 1982 to June 30, 1995 were retrospectively studied to determine total mortality, frequency of early vs late deaths, and clinical features of patients with early (< or = 14 d after admission) or late deaths (> 14 d after admission).
Results: The overall mortality of acute pancreatitis was 2.1% (17 deaths among 805 patients). Eight deaths (47%) occurred within the first 14 d of hospitalization (median d 8, range 1-11 d), whereas 9 occurred after 14 d (median d 56, range 19-81). Early deaths resulted primarily from organ failure. Late deaths occurred postoperatively in 8 patients with infected or sterile necrosis and 1 patient with infected necrosis treated medically.
Conclusion: Approximately half of deaths in acute pancreatitis occur within the first 14 d owing to organ failure and the remainder of deaths occur later because of complications associated with necrotizing pancreatitis. Improvement in mortality in the future will require innovative approaches to counteract early organ failure and late complications of necrotizing pancreatitis.