Mechanisms linking hypertriglyceridemia to acute pancreatitis

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2023 Mar;237(3):e13916. doi: 10.1111/apha.13916. Epub 2023 Jan 13.


Hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) is a metabolic disorder, defined when serum or plasma triglyceride concentration (seTG) is >1.7 mM. HTG can be categorized as mild to very severe groups based on the seTG value. The risk of acute pancreatitis (AP), a serious disease with high mortality and without specific therapy, increases with the degree of HTG. Furthermore, even mild or moderate HTG aggravates AP initiated by other important etiological factors, including alcohol or bile stone. This review briefly summarizes the pathophysiology of HTG, the epidemiology of HTG-induced AP and the clinically observed effects of HTG on the outcomes of AP. Our main focus is to discuss the pathophysiological mechanisms linking HTG to AP. HTG is accompanied by an increased serum fatty acid (FA) concentration, and experimental results have demonstrated that these FAs have the most prominent role in causing the consequences of HTG during AP. FAs inhibit mitochondrial complexes in pancreatic acinar cells, induce pathological elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration, cytokine release and tissue injury, and reduce the function of pancreatic ducts. Furthermore, high FA concentrations can induce respiratory, kidney, and cardiovascular failure in AP. All these effects may contribute to the observed increased AP severity and frequent organ failure in patients. Importantly, experimental results suggest that the reduction of FA production by lipase inhibitors can open up new therapeutic options of AP. Overall, investigating the pathophysiology of HTG-induced AP or AP in the presence of HTG and determining possible treatments are needed.

Keywords: acute pancreatitis; fatty acid; hypertriglyceridemia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia* / complications
  • Hypertriglyceridemia* / epidemiology
  • Pancreatitis*
  • Triglycerides


  • Triglycerides