The Atlanta Classification of acute pancreatitis revisited

Br J Surg. 2008 Jan;95(1):6-21. doi: 10.1002/bjs.6010.


Background: In a complex disease such as acute pancreatitis, correct terminology and clear definitions are important. The clinically based Atlanta Classification was formulated in 1992, but in recent years it has been increasingly criticized. No formal evaluation of the use of the Atlanta definitions in the literature has ever been performed.

Methods: A Medline literature search sought studies published after 1993. Guidelines, review articles and their cross-references were reviewed to assess whether the Atlanta or alternative definitions were used.

Results: A total of 447 articles was assessed, including 12 guidelines and 82 reviews. Alternative definitions of predicted severity of acute pancreatitis, actual severity and organ failure were used in more than half of the studies. There was a large variation in the interpretation of the Atlanta definitions of local complications, especially relating to the content of peripancreatic collections.

Conclusion: The Atlanta definitions for acute pancreatitis are often used inappropriately, and alternative definitions are frequently applied. Such lack of consensus illustrates the need for a revision of the Atlanta Classification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Humans
  • Multiple Organ Failure / mortality
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / classification*
  • Pancreatitis / complications
  • Pancreatitis / mortality
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed