Acute Pancreatitis with an Ongoing Pancreatic Duct Leak Complicated by Refractory Pleural Effusion: A Case Report

Am J Case Rep. 2021 Jun 11;22:e931330. doi: 10.12659/AJCR.931330.


BACKGROUND Acute pancreatitis causes a significant systemic inflammatory response that affects multiple organs. Pulmonary complications include pleural effusions, hypoxia, atelectasis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Pleural effusion is an indicator of poor prognosis in pancreatitis. This case report supports the few existing reports about best practice for the diagnosis and treatment of a pancreatic duct leak causing refractory right pleural effusion. CASE REPORT In this case report, a woman with long-term rheumatoid arthritis and recent severe gallstone pancreatitis required hospital readmission for progressive shortness of breath from recurrent massive right pleural effusion from the pancreatitis with an ongoing pancreatic leak and a pseudocyst. She had diagnostic thoracentesis and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) that was followed by endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and stent placement as a therapeutic procedure, with complete resolution of her symptoms. CONCLUSIONS This case report demonstrates an atypical presentation of complications from severe pancreatitis. MRCP is the criterion standard and best initial test for diagnosing a fistula. When possible, ERCP is preferred for the initial evaluation and treatment of pancreatic leaks and fistulas. In the present case report, treatment with endoscopic cystogastrostomies was effective for the internal drainage of the pseudocyst, pancreatic duct leak, and eventual resolution of the pleural effusion.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Ducts
  • Pancreatitis* / complications
  • Pancreatitis* / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion* / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion* / etiology
  • Pleural Effusion* / therapy