Acute Pancreatitis: A Review

JAMA. 2021 Jan 26;325(4):382-390. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.20317.


Importance: In the United States, acute pancreatitis is one of the leading causes of hospital admission from gastrointestinal diseases, with approximately 300 000 emergency department visits each year. Outcomes from acute pancreatitis are influenced by risk stratification, fluid and nutritional management, and follow-up care and risk-reduction strategies, which are the subject of this review.

Observations: MEDLINE was searched via PubMed as was the Cochrane databases for English-language studies published between January 2009 and August 2020 for current recommendations for predictive scoring tools, fluid management and nutrition, and follow-up and risk-reduction strategies for acute pancreatitis. Several scoring systems, such as the Bedside Index of Severity in Acute Pancreatitis (BISAP) and the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II tools, have good predictive capabilities for disease severity (mild, moderately severe, and severe per the revised Atlanta classification) and mortality, but no one tool works well for all forms of acute pancreatitis. Early and aggressive fluid resuscitation and early enteral nutrition are associated with lower rates of mortality and infectious complications, yet the optimal type and rate of fluid resuscitation have yet to be determined. The underlying etiology of acute pancreatitis should be sought in all patients, and risk-reduction strategies, such as cholecystectomy and alcohol cessation counseling, should be used during and after hospitalization for acute pancreatitis.

Conclusions and relevance: Acute pancreatitis is a complex disease that varies in severity and course. Prompt diagnosis and stratification of severity influence proper management. Scoring systems are useful adjuncts but should not supersede clinical judgment. Fluid management and nutrition are very important aspects of care for acute pancreatitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Abstinence
  • Enteral Nutrition*
  • Fluid Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis
  • Pancreatitis / etiology
  • Pancreatitis / therapy*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Severity of Illness Index