Objective: To systematically review trends in the epidemiology of the first attack of acute pancreatitis (AP) based on reported population-based studies.
Methods: From Medline, we retrieved 18 full-length English language peer-reviewed original articles published from 1966 to June 2005 with population-based information on the epidemiology of first-attack AP. Trends over time were analyzed based on study- and country-specific data and the study site (UK vs non-UK).
Results: Eight studies were from the UK and 10 from other European centers. An increase in the annual incidence per 100,000 for first-attack AP was reported in 10 of 12 studies with longitudinal data from 4 countries (UK, Sweden, Denmark, and Netherlands). The overall AP incidence seems to be higher in non-UK studies compared with that of UK, partly explained by a higher incidence of alcoholic pancreatitis in non-UK studies. A linear trend for increase in gallstone pancreatitis incidence over time was observed irrespective of the study site (UK or non-UK). The AP incidence and mortality increased with age. Gallstone pancreatitis was more common in female subjects, and alcoholic pancreatitis was more common in middle-aged male subjects. The AP case fatality (%) has decreased over time, but the overall population mortality rate per 100,000 has remained unchanged. Recurrence after the first attack is milder with a substantially lower mortality.
Conclusions: The incidence of AP seems to be increasing. Differences in the incidence and etiology between and within countries reflect differences in the risk factor prevalence. Case-fatality rate, but not the population-based mortality rate, decreased over time.