Background: Serious sepsis and major blunt trauma have adverse effects on body composition, physiological function and psychological state. The effect of severe acute pancreatitis on these groups of variables has not yet been reported.
Methods: We have studied the effect of predicted severe acute pancreatitis (admission APACHE II score > or = 6) on body fat and mid arm muscle circumference (assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and anthropometry), respiratory function (measured by spirometry and vitalography), voluntary muscle function (measured by hand dynamometry) and psychological state (measured by use of the hospital anxiety and depression score and visual analogue scale for fatigue) on admission, and three and seven days thereafter.
Results: The median APACHE II score of the 15 patients (7 men) in this study was 10 (6-13). The patients showed significant improvement in respiratory function (FEV1 1.3, 1.6, 2.3 litres/s, p < 0.01; FVC 1.5, 2.0, 2.9 litres, p < 0.01; PEFR 304, 372, 409 litres/min, p = 0.01 but no change in voluntary muscle function (210, 205, 213 N, p = 0.41) over the 7-day study period. Psychological state improved in terms of fatigue (2.4, 4.2, 7.0, p < 0.01) and depression (6, 9, 4, p = 0.12) but not in anxiety (8, 6, 7, p = 0.07). Body fat measured by DEXA (17.3 kg on admission, 16.7 kg on day 7, p = 0.13) and the mid upper arm muscle circumference (262, 248, 251 mm, p = 0.10) did not change implying that energy and nitrogen balance over the 7-day study period was achieved.
Conclusion: Predicted severe acute pancreatitis has an adverse effect on respiratory function and psychological state similar to that observed in serious sepsis. Improvement in these variables is apparent over 7 days of effective treatment. Further research is indicated to examine the effect of nutritional support on these variables.