Patients with severe acute pancreatitis (SAP) present complications and organ failure, which require treatment in critical care units. These extrapancreatic complications determine the clinical outcome of the disease. Intra-abdominal hypertension (IAH) deteriorates the prognosis of SAP. In this paper, relevant recent literature was reviewed, as well as the authors' own experiences, concerning the clinical importance of IAH and its treatment in SAP. The principal observations confirmed that IAH is a frequent consequence of SAP but is practically absent in mild disease. Common manifestations of AP such as pain, abdominal distension, and paralytic ileus contribute to increased abdominal pressure, as well as fluid loss in third space and aggressive fluid replacement therapy. A severe increase in IAP can evolve to abdominal compartment syndrome and new onset organ failure. Conservative measures are useful, but invasive interventions are necessary in several cases. Percutaneous drainage of major collections is preferred when possible, but open decompressive laparotomy is the final possibility in some cases in order to definitively reduce abdominal pressure. Intra-abdominal pressure should be measured in all SAP cases that worsen despite adequate treatment in critical care units. Conservative measures must be introduced to treat IAH, including negative fluid balance, digestive decompression by gastric-rectal tube, and prokinetics, including neostigmine. In the case of insufficient responses to these measures, minimally invasive interventions should be preferred.
Keywords: abdominal compartment syndrome; abdominal pressure; intraabdominal hypertension.