Background and aims: Though recurrent acute pancreatitis is often seen in clinical practice, there are few comprehensive articles on this entity. The aim of this study therefore was to assess the etiological and clinical profile as well as diagnostic yield of non-invasive and invasive tests in this group of patients.
Methods: All patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis seen from 2002 to 2007 were included in the study, retrospectively. Clinical information, investigation, and treatment data were collected for all patients by a standardized review of medical charts. Diagnostic tests were grouped into level one (non-invasive) and level two (invasive) tests and their yield was assessed. Comparison was made between the group with known etiology and idiopathic group to look for significant differences.
Results: A total of 188 patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis were seen during the study period. Common etiological factors were biliary disease (37%), pancreas divisum (8.5%) and alcohol (6.4%). Multiple etiologies were seen in 7% of cases, and no cause was found in 32.4%. The diagnostic yield of level-one investigation (non-invasive) was 29.3%. Level-two tests (invasive) identified presumptive etiologies in 38.3% of cases. Complications developed in 12.2% and there was no mortality. Clinical features and complications were similar in the idiopathic group and those with known etiology.
Conclusions: Etiological diagnosis was obtained in 67.6% of patients after comprehensive diagnostic work up. Diagnosis in the majority of patients could only be reached after invasive tests (bile crystal analysis, EUS, ERCP). Early diagnosis and etiology-based therapy is the key to optimum patient outcome.