Objective: The objective of this study was to assess pancreatic exocrine function (PEF) and morphology in patients recovering from a first episode of acute pancreatitis (AP).
Methods: Sixty-five eligible patients recovering from AP and 70 healthy volunteers were enrolled in this study. We evaluated PEF by fecal elastase 1 (FE-1) and used ultrasonography to detect pancreatic morphology for all patients and 40 controls.
Results: Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) incidence in the severe and mild AP subgroups was 60.5% and 39.5%, respectively. The FE-1 level in patients who had undergone surgical care was significantly lower compared with the controls (P < 0.01), whereas no difference was observed between the alcoholic and nonalcoholic groups (P > 0.05). Surprisingly, the defecation change correlated with the EPI level. In these patients, a stepwise recovery was observed over the following 2.4 years. Compared with the controls, the diameter of pancreatic duct was enlarged, and abdominal pain during recovery was found to be the independent risk factor for pancreatic duct expansion, although a significant difference was not exhibited between the AP subgroups concerning FE-1 concentration (P = 0.591).
Conclusions: Our results indicated that many AP patients may have long-lasting EPI and an expanded main pancreatic duct; thus, routine evaluation of PEF is warranted.